Looking For An Affordable Florida City With Minimal Hurricane Risk? Check Out This One

Looking For An Affordable Florida City With Minimal Hurricane Risk? Check Out This One
Looking For An Affordable Florida City With Minimal Hurricane Risk? Check Out This One

Florida's combination of zero state taxes, year-round sunshine, and affordable housing has had a near-magnetic pull on American real estate buyers for decades. Unfortunately, Florida does have a significant drawback: the threat of hurricanes, which pose an ever-increasing menace to the Sunshine State's coastal population centers. However, if you'd still like to move to Florida and minimize your hurricane risk, put Ocala on your list of potential destinations.

A recent AI simulation run by the Wall Street Journal found that Ocala's location in the center of the Sunshine State puts it at relatively minimal risk of a direct hit or inland flooding from a massive hurricane. By contrast, most of Florida's major cities are on its coasts. Hurricanes are not a new danger in Florida and quite a few made landfall in the Sunshine State during the 20th century.

Perhaps the most infamous Hurricane to strike Florida in the late 20th century was Andrew, which slammed into Miami in 1992 and left much of the city in ruins. Ironically, the rebuild sparked Miami's rebranding as a global vacation and luxury travel hub. Over time, other Florida cities like Tampa and Jacksonville grew in population and became destination cities as well.

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However, all three of those cities are on the coast and Orlando, the biggest city in Central Florida, is also at risk of hurricane damage due to its many lakes. Most Floridians seemed content with the danger, but the onset of climate change is forcing a reevaluation of that risk. Water surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean, which border the entirety of Florida, are at all-time highs.

Most climate scientists agree that these high water temperatures are making Atlantic Ocean and Gulf Coast hurricanes larger, more powerful, and more frequent. That could explain why so many hurricanes hit Florida between 2017 and 2023. The total damage from those storms was in the billions of dollars and one immediate consequence is the havoc they created in the insurance market. Today, Floridians pay the highest average home insurance premiums in the country.

This is where Ocala comes into the picture as a potential destination city in Florida. Although it does not have the name recognition and population density of cities like Orlando and Tampa, it has a natural elevation of around 70 feet above sea level. By Florida standards, that's practically sitting on a mountaintop. Daytona Beach is located nearby along the highway, but the Ocala National Forest is a natural barrier to hurricane storm surge.

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This isn't to say that Ocala won't suffer during a hurricane, but hurricanes weaken significantly when they pass over land. That means Ocala's central location and natural elevation make it more resistant to hurricane damage than any city on the Florida coast. The weather in Ocala is very similar to that of the rest of Florida, with mild winters and humid summers.

Ocala may not have the coast, but it has a long history as an equestrian center, meaning horse lovers will feel at home there. US News and World Report ranks Ocala in the top 100 on its list of the best US cities to live in and 26 on its list of the best places to retire in America.

Ocala's median home price is a very reasonable $215,000 and it has a bustling downtown area with shops, restaurants, and Victorian architecture. The combined population of Ocala and its metropolitan area is around 125,000. That means it has an ideal combination of big-city services and a small-town feel. Given these factors, it's easy to see Ocala becoming an attractive option for Florida real estate investors very soon.

Disclosure: Investors, prospective renters and homeowners should be advised that Ocala is not at zero risk of damage from extreme weather or hurricanes. Any major storm could still heavily damage Ocala, however, that risk is comparatively lower than that of some other Florida cities.

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