Panama is
new home

Hurricane-free Panama is attracting survivors of the worst storm season on record in the southern United States.

The influx has already started, following hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Tom Storm (yes, that is his real name) used to live in Kiln, Mississippi, a town that was in the eye of hurricane Katrina. Tom barely escaped with his life as his house flooded, forcing him to flee to the roof.

Did all he could

Tom had thought he had done all he could to avoid such a catastrophe – he had his home raised eight feet. A friend had gone one better by raising the ground level six feet, and then had his house built on top of ten-foot pilings, but even he suffered flood damage.

After two record hurricanes in a row, Tom decided it was time to move.

In September, he accepted a friend’s invitation and moved to the idyllic mountain village of Volcan in the Chiriqui highlands of Panama. Tom had arrived with literally the clothes on his back, thanks to the airline losing his only suitcase.

"Rita the final straw"

The other morning, Tom and I sat sunning ourselves on the outdoor patio of a local café. The clear blue sky was dotted with the odd puffy white cloud and the air was a fresh and invigorating 68 degrees. Tom sipped his coffee and then let out a big sigh. “No more, man” he said. "Rita was the final straw.”

Tom Storm is not alone in moving to hurricane-free Panama. In 2005, more than 2,500 people applied for a retirement visa – a rise of 400% over the previous year. Retirement magazines have consistently rated Panama as one of the top places in the world to retire.

Average daily temperature: 70

In Volcan, where Tom is retiring, the average daily temperature is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Lunch costs $1.50 and a liter of imported wine can be had for less than $2. The area is known for its year round eternal spring climate. That makes it a favorite destination for retirees in hurricane-free Panama.

P.S.: Tom’s life in sunny Volcan is getting better every day – the airline finally found his lost suitcase. – David Dell.

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