In 2018, Hurricane Michael struck the Florida Panhandle, causing massive damage to homes and infrastructure in the area.

More than 40 people lost their lives in the storm. Hurricane Michael was the third most intense Atlantic hurricane to make landfall in the United States. In Mexico Beach, catastrophic and widespread destruction occurred when hundreds of homes were flattened or swept away from the 14 ft storm surge and high-end category four winds. In all, the hurricane caused more than 25 billion dollars in damage and mostly affected the regions and counties of the Florida Panhandle. But Hurricane Michael wasn’t the only one to make landfall in Florida last year.

Hurricane Michael

Image source: https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/09/weather/hurricane-michael-stats-superlatives-wxc-trnd/index.html

As news of the storm’s path and subsequent destruction spread, Sol Relief organized a massive relief effort for the people of Florida.

Inspired by the daughter of Jen Lockwood, executive director and co-founder of the nonprofit, said “Our dedicated Sol Relief aid workers and volunteers filled backpacks for the children living in shelters and also organized backpacks for the adults filled with blankets, batteries, water filtration devices, flashlights, and more. We also brought 100 backpacks to the Red Cross stationed in Marianna, Florida.”

After Hurricane Michael battered the Florida coast, more than 6000 people who’s homes were impacted moved to shelters throughout the Panhandle. Our response multiplied as we let our NGO partners know we had volunteer pilots with planes on standby to transport aid when needed. Hurricane Michael created damage on a much larger scale than initially anticipated. As the destruction was assessed, our backpack drive grew in response.

When the extent of the damage became more apparent, Sol Relief got to work doing what it does best – partnering with some of the leading disaster relief response teams and helping those in need.

Aside from the initial backpack drive, we delivered chain saws, tools, work gloves, and gas cans. We took in truck loads of supplies from State Representative Kathleen Peters and her team, who was a large help in shopping, organizing and loading planes for delivery. We partnered with World Hope International and moved supplies for their partner, MAP International and flew 77 boxes of hygiene kits from Georgia to the Florida Panhandle. In addition, for World Hope International we moved thousands of pounds worth of tarps, food, baby supplies, first aid kits, and more essential disaster relief supplies that were donated by Amazon. With these supplies, we were able to bring hope to thousands of Floridians and alleviate some of the pain and fear that happens to people caught up in natural disasters.

Supplies Being Donated For Hurricane Michael Relief

As we finished moving the backpacks and supplies donated from our local community, our critical operation base moved from Albert Whitted Airport in St. Petersburg, Florida, to a base in Gainesville, Florida. The move was strategic because the new Gainesville base was where the Amazon supplies were delivered and our aviation partner, Operation Air Drop, had organized a supply drive at the local airport.

Operation Air Drop provides a similar volunteer service that we do at Sol Relief. The group is a volunteer pilot network based out of Texas, and they’ve assisted thousands of people with natural disaster relief and similar aid efforts. During our move to Gainesville, donations continued to pour in.

Between our efforts here at Sol Relief, and the dedicated efforts of our friends with Operation Air Drop, we flew hundreds of boxes of vital supplies to the distressed Florida Panhandle, including five counties, and one grass strip.

Below is a list of our valued partners and suppliers:

  • World Hope International – MAP International & Amazon – Supplies / Distribution
  • House Representative Kathleen Peters – Supplies / Ground team volunteers
  • Operation Air Drop – Air Lift
  • Appalachicola Sheriff’s Department – Distribution / Needs assessment

At Sol Relief, our role in bringing relief and supplies to the battered Florida Panhandle were critical to ensuring that people in need obtained much-needed assistance. At Sol Relief, our experienced and dedicated workers initiated and organized the backpack effort, managed pilot sign-ups, and coordinated flights between our pilots and Operation Air Drop.

Supplies Being Loaded Into A Pialtus PC-12

Flying the supplies to the needed areas wasn’t the only thing we handled though.

Making sure those items were transported quickly and efficiently was also a significant part of our job as the storm subsided. We coordinated supply chains for the transportation of goods, from the initial pick up to the final drop off and distribution. In addition, we coordinated ground volunteers to shop for requested supplies within 48 hours. This part of our operation was crucial to helping the people caught in the storm. Within 48 hours, we’d spent more than 20 thousand dollars in supplies!

Supplies On The Tarmac

Although our volunteers and workers at Sol Relief played a crucial part in getting aid to the people of Florida, we could not have done it without the efforts of other experienced and dedicated volunteers and relief aid organizations.

We would also like to thank several other key, critical players in the relief efforts for Hurricane Michael in the Florida Panhandle.

Florida House Representative Kathleen Peters and her campaign team, and the St. Pete local community were a significant help with organizing the supplies and providing us with ground team volunteers. The efforts and receivers of the shelters in Marianna, Port St. Joe, and Mexico Beach also enabled us to get much-needed supplies into the hands of those who needed them quickly.

The sheriff’s department of Appalachicola distributed our delivery of highly critical tools, including chainsaws, gas cans, debris removal tools, food and hygiene supplies. Several churches in Marianna and Panama City areas distributed our delivery of food, tarps, chain saws, hygiene kids, work gloves, and gas cans. All in all, Sol Relief flew more than 33 flights, headed by volunteer pilots in five counties. 100% of the time, flights, and efforts were donated.

Group Of Volunteer Pilots

Our mission at Sol Relief is to partner with other aid organizations to bring forth the largest possible impact and in the most efficient way possible.

Responding quickly is also a crucial part of the Sol Relief mission statement. It is heartbreaking to see the damage and destruction of a massive storm like Hurricane Michael, but our partnerships, efficient supply chains, and the passion of our volunteers brought a critical amount of relief to the distressed Florida Panhandle. We believe our experiences will make us well-prepared for any further storm relief when the need, however unfortunate, arises in the future.