Oct 5, 2022 - News

Floridians weigh whether to stay or go post-Hurricane Ian

Wind gusts across the John Ringling Causeway as Hurricane Ian churns to the south on Sept. 28. Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

We asked our Axios Tampa Bay readers this week if Hurricane Ian made them second-guess living in Tampa Bay, or in Florida in general.

  • For most of the roughly 20 who responded, Ian was the last straw — or at least a big motivator — to consider moving.

Dade City resident Amanda Curtiss told Axios that living in Florida "is getting harder and harder."

"Ever since Hurricane Michael I've taken hurricanes very seriously. ... With Ian, I have a bigger family now, lots of animals and a more secure house so we stayed but after seeing the unpredictability, I will be evacuating for future hurricanes coming to Florida. Moving is definitely in the cards but we are waiting for our daughter to finish high school in the next few years."

Kerry Abington echoed that sentiment.

"We're done. We’ll be heading back to [Washington state] next year. We live very close to the bay and if Ian had struck here our house and neighborhood would have been destroyed."

Stephen Peeples said he's "no stranger to big storms" having grown up in coastal South Carolina and experiencing Hurricane Sandy in New York.

"With the intensity and amount of rainfall associated with them only increasing, along with relentless sea level rise, I am not sure I want to be looking over my shoulder for half the year. St. Pete was, of course, spared the brunt of this awful storm. How much longer will our luck hold out?"

Some say they're making changes, but staying put:

"100% committed to staying in Tampa Bay. Lessons learned: evacuate when told to and always get flood insurance."
— Caroline Balavender
"I was born and raised in Florida so hurricanes and the damage they can do was definitely known to me. However, I also became complacent and wasn't prepared as I should have been. Lesson learned."
— Sandra Wilson
"My wife and I live in a comfortable inland home in a beautiful Sarasota neighborhood, but we have constantly searched for a waterfront location to move to, knowing the risks. Ian has ended that quest."
— Bob Hueter
"Yes the hurricane has been overly traumatic, more so than Irma. We will not be building any additions to our lot (as we were planning) as we are on the water after this due to financial loss. We are hoping that this slows down or reverses the growth in Tampa some because the city is getting too crowded and our infrastructure is not supporting."
— Haroon Ilyas

Others say the storm didn't change a thing:

"As a lifelong resident in my '60s I consider the occasional Hurricane to be the price we pay to live in paradise."
— Rita Smith
"Every place has risks and it’s not like you can’t leave which we did to Brooksville. If our condo had been flooded maybe I would feel different but that’s a risk we take living on the water and close to the beach."
— Kathy Bond
"We bought our house in a non evacuation zone. I insisted on that when we moved here. A hidden bonus is that we also have underground power lines. We lost power in the last storm for about 24 hours. Our daughter and many others were without power for 8 days! We also upgraded to impact windows a few years ago and we no longer board up our windows, primarily because I will soon be too old to put up plywood."
— Dave Hinz, Clearwater

Several people say the hurricane, combined with Florida's politics, are enough to make them leave.

"Let's just say that this storm was the icing on the cake. Things in Florida were ugly enough, given the political climate here. I had already pulled my son from public schools due to the new laws cutting off teachers ability to teach. Now I am planning on moving to the U.K. or New England for my family's protection. Paradise lost."
— Walt Illes
"Being an older gay man, the political climate has triggered me — reminding me of the attitude towards being gay that I experienced growing up. And that's not a good thing .... That and Ian coming so close to where I live has definitely made me, and other gays that I know, rethink living here. But where do I go for warm weather to avoid this alt-right plague?"
— James Pirone

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