As the U.S. evaluates damage from Hurricane Ian, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is flying Special Missions Beechcraft King Air aircraft over impacted areas to collect assessment imagery in coordination with state and federal partners.
Doug Scott, a Textron Aviation employee impacted by the hurricane, shared his experience evacuating Sanibel, Florida, and looking for information during the storm. Hurricane Ian caused significant damage to the Sanibel Causeway, cutting off access to the island community.
Doug Scott, manager of Government Relations and Special Mission Communications at Textron Aviation, has been with the business supporting Cessna and Beechcraft products for over 30 years. Recently, Doug and his wife Sharon moved to Sanibel, Florida.
Sanibel has always been a special place for the Scotts. They first vacationed there 25 years ago and took their two sons there yearly as they grew up. What started as a one-week vacation turned into a two-week vacation, and after their kids finished college, they decided to buy a home on the island.
Sanibel was the perfect place to relax and enjoy nature for the Scotts. The beautiful beaches and bike paths were perfect for exploring, and the tropical forests and animals were a delight. They felt lucky to have found their dream home on the island and hoped to spend many happy years there.
As Hurricane Ian developed, the Scotts watched the weather closely and prepared for the fact that it could be a bad storm.
“The storm was originally forecasted to hit the Big Bend area of Florida, but our son, who sails for the Military Sealift Command, told us that the Navy’s data showed it turning more toward our part of the state. He advised us to evacuate, even though it wasn’t mandatory, so we packed up and left for Fort Lauderdale,” Doug said.
“As the hurricane grew closer, we became increasingly worried. We were in a dangerous spot for storm surge, and they were predicting waves as high as 12 feet. That was very concerning on an island with an average elevation of just three feet above sea level.”
Fortunately, the Scotts could stay informed by watching traffic cameras and following updates on Facebook from people who remained on the island. But then, late Wednesday afternoon, all communication went dead.
As the hurricane grew closer, we became increasingly worried. We were in a dangerous spot for storm surge, and they were predicting waves as high as 12 feet.Doug Scott, Manager of Government Relations and Special Mission Communications, Textron Aviation
“We didn’t know what was happening back home until early Friday morning when we saw that NOAA had posted high-definition images taken by an airplane during four different flyovers of the area,” he said.
Aircraft such as the Beechcraft King Air are vital in supporting responses to catastrophic events such as Hurricane Ian. NOAA’s King Airs are equipped with special mission equipment to capture high-definition images of areas affected by storms or other disasters. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other state and federal partners use these images to assess the damage and plan the response.
With the ability to take off and land almost anywhere, the King Air has a long history of being used for this purpose. In fact, NOAA used King Airs to capture imagery of the Joplin, Missouri, tornado devastation in 2011.
“So after hours of silence and assuming our home was completely destroyed, I saw that NOAA posted high definition imagery from four hours of circuits,” Doug said. “They were flying a King Air 350 over Sanibel, Cape Coral, and Fort Myers Beach – all the areas that were most negatively impacted by the effects of Ian.”
The Scotts shared NOAA’s imagery with their friends and island community, so people who were displaced from their homes had a better idea of what they would eventually return to.
Speaking about the importance of NOAA’s mission, Doug says: “It’s just critically important. This catastrophe is so widespread. If it was just my neighbor and me, that’s one thing. But I think this is probably impacting hundreds of thousands of households here in southwest Florida, from Tampa down to the south of Marco Island on the southwest coast.”
For Doug, it hits home differently now how much the Special Missions products he supports make a difference. But just as importantly, he said he had felt tremendous support from the entire Textron Aviation community.
“I’ve received incredible encouragement and offers of help, not only from my colleagues and peers but from the community,” he said. “I’d like to say thank you. My wife and I are in a moment of real uncertainty. I don’t know when I’ll be able to go home. So it’s welcome to know that people care, and they’re making offers to help – whether with work or trying to put a roof over my head.”
If Hurricane Ian negatively impacted you or someone you know, there are ways to get help. Textron Aviation employees can apply for relief via the company’s employee-sponsored non-profit UPLIFT. Other individuals affected by Hurricane Ian in Florida can apply for assistance online at www.disasterassistance.gov or by calling (800) 621-3362.