Judy Biondi looks forward to moving to Florida. The 70-year-old New Yorker plans to join her sister in Sarasota by the end of the year. Although Sarasota sits on the Gulf, Biondi isn’t worried about inclement weather.
“Whatever is going to happen is going to happen,” Biondi told Financial Advisor magazine. “It’s not like I’m 20 years old and have my whole life in front of me.”
While living under the sun and beaches of Florida are the dream for many baby boomers approaching retirement, the Sunshine State is not without its dark side.
“The relatively common occurrence of tropical storms puts more real estate and people at risk from storm surges aggravated by sea-level rise in Florida than any other state by far,” said Ben Strauss, scientist and vice president for sea level and climate impact with Climate Central in Princeton, New Jersey.
Like Biondi, retirees tend to downplay the seriousness of flooding as not life threatening, but death isn’t the only danger of hurricanes.
“A home that’s flooded from rising sea levels isn’t necessarily destroyed but damage from flooding can be very expensive and problematic,” Strauss said. “Flood risk can lower the property value of a home so much that you may not be able to sell it for the price you’d hoped in 10 to 30 years.”
That’s because the threat and awareness of flood risk is widening and the number of extreme events overall is rising.
There were 80 U.S. weather-related events that cost more than $1 billion each between 2004 and 2013, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. During the previous decade, there were only 46 such events.
“Sea level rise is more than doubling the risk of a consequential coastal flood in South Florida by 2030,” Strauss said. “For residents holding a 30-year mortgage, that date is not far off in the future."
Costs are aggravated by increased building along coastlines. Nearly one million people live and more than half a million homes sit within four feet of the local high tide line in Florida, mostly in south Florida, which includes Miami-Dade, Broward, Monroe and Palm Beach counties, according to Climate Central.