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USA - Choosing a Place to Retire? Factor in Climate Change

Which popular places are most at risk

When Bill and Annemarie Kachur retired in early 2016, they saw no reason to go anywhere. The gray shingled bungalow in Myrtle Beach, S.C. had been their home for more than 15 years.

“I’ve been here so long, it’s a sense of roots now for me,” says Bill, 65, who spent his early career hopping around the country, working on-air at various radio stations.

Plus, they were already in a haven for retirees. “I like the fact that there isn’t a winter,” says Annemarie, who’ll be 65 in September.

But in recent years, their idyllic spot about 2 ½ miles from the Atlantic Ocean has revealed an ominous side: hurricane season. “I just noticed that the last four or five years, we keep getting hammered,” recalls Bill.

Two Hurricane Evacuations Since 2016

Since 2016, the Kachurs have ridden out four hurricanes, including two evacuations to safer ground.

“Ten months out of the year, it’s great,” says Bill. “And then there’s a couple months out of the year when you’re walking on eggshells and you’re a little bit concerned about what’s blowin’ in the wind, so to speak.”

Warm, beachy spots on the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf Coasts have been retirement magnets for decades. But, as Hurricane Laura just underscored, they’re also squarely in the crosshairs of the changing climate, effects of which are already evident in many of the nation’s most popular retirement destinations.

Climate Change and Retirement Location Decisions

“Current climate and future climate is absolutely something that people should be thinking about when deciding where to live, where to retire,” advises Radley Horton, a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, who has focused on climate adaptation strategies. “Those are absolutely critical concerns when you think about impacts directly on the home, but also livability outdoors — things like critical infrastructure, too,” says Horton.

Rising seas are threatening things we tend to take for granted in many areas, like major freeways, airports and sewage treatment plants. The hazards of wildfires and extreme heat are also intensifying due to climate change.

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