When Hurricane Michael brought its Category 4 destructive force to bear on the Florida panhandle on Oct. 10, flattening a coastal town and inflicting cataclysmic damage elsewhere, quick work by pilots and other Floridians helped lessen the area’s immediate misery.
Over the next two days, four general aviation pilots flew their airplanes from Fort Pierce's Treasure Coast International Airport and Vero Beach Regional Airport to Marianna Municipal Airport in northern Florida loaded with donated supplies assembled under auspices of the Veterans Council of Indian River County and Angels of I.R.C., said Frank Jencik, a private pilot based in Fort Pierce.
The pilots knew widespread destruction had occurred from Mexico Beach—obliterated by Michael—to Pensacola, and “in a swath into Georgia.” They could see extensive damage beneath the tree canopy, with roofs stripped from buildings, downed trees blocking roads, and downtown areas “looking like a bomb had hit it,” Jencik said.
Vero Beach is no stranger to providing hurricane relief, having sent truckloads of donated materials to Texas when Hurricane Harvey caused widespread flooding in Houston in 2017.
This year, the town responded again, and once roads are open, “truck loads will follow,” Jencik said, noting that the pilots launched their flights to the panhandle “to get something in there” as quickly as possible.