John Wheeler: The American dream of owning a house on the ocean is costing us all

About 30 percent of the total population now live in a county adjacent to an ocean.

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FARGO — According to U.S. Census data, almost 95 million Americans, or about 30% of the total population, now live in a county adjacent to an ocean. These locations, especially those in the warm and sunny South, are beautiful. They are also mostly flat, flood-prone and vulnerable to hurricanes. One thing that really stands out in the video reels of Ft. Myers Beach and Sanibel Island following the destruction of Hurricane Ian is that much of the damage is to very nice and expensive homes.

This trend of wealthy Americans building increasingly expensive homes; whether for vacations, retirement, or just for living; is getting increasingly expensive for all Americans because when disasters like Hurricane Ian happen, we all pay for part of the clean up. Admittedly, it may seem disingenuous for anyone who lives in Fargo, a flood-prone city in and of itself, to point fingers elsewhere. But as the sea-level continues to rise, the cost of coastal population expansion will get increasingly expensive.

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John Wheeler is Chief Meteorologist for WDAY, a position he has had since May of 1985. Wheeler grew up in the South, in Louisiana and Alabama, and cites his family's move to the Midwest as important to developing his fascination with weather and climate. Wheeler lived in Wisconsin and Iowa as a teenager. He attended Iowa State University and achieved a B.S. degree in Meteorology in 1984. Wheeler worked about a year at WOI-TV in central Iowa before moving to Fargo and WDAY..
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