CHICAGO - Hurricane Ian is wreaking havoc on communities, leaving neighborhoods flooded and homes destroyed. It’s meant all hands are on deck to assist residents impacted by the storm – from support in the air, to help on the ground.
"We train for this mission every day, every week throughout the year," said Lt. Col. Scott Oden, director of Aviation & Safety with the Indiana National Guard.
As Floridians start to pick up the pieces left behind by the hurricane, help is pouring in from all parts of the nation. That includes a team of about a dozen Indiana National Guard soldiers with the 38th Infantry Division's Aviation Brigade.
"We always come together and lend a helping hand and I'm just proud to be part of that mission," said Maj. Jonathan Robertson of the Indiana National Guard.
The group of National Guard members departed from Shelbyville, Indiana, early Thursday morning on two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and will spend the night in Alabama.
On Friday, they will head into the disaster zone – and will likely be deployed to the Tampa Bay area where they could stay for several weeks.
"Their mission set right now will primarily be two-fold. One, conducting air movement operations, which will be picking up civilians, military personnel, whoever is needed to be transported from one location to the next," said Oden. "Then, also potentially doing aerial re-supply, where they’ll pick up equipment, gear, medical supplies, food – and transport that to a specific location."
The request for help from the Indiana National Guard came through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, which is a foundation for sharing resources between states.
The Illinois National Guard has not yet received a formal request from Florida to respond.
Other local help is also on the ground in Florida, including hundreds of American Red Cross volunteers and ComEd workers.
Following in their footsteps, World Central Kitchen (WCK) sent its Relief Team to the region. Volunteers with the nonprofit have already started distributing meals to those impacted by the storm.
During their first day of work on Thursday, they set out to make 20,000 meals.
As damage is surveyed, WCK will focus its efforts on areas between Tampa and Naples. Additionally, the team plans to work with food trucks, restaurants, and caterers as the need increases.
While many residents evacuated to safety, some decided to take their chances.
On Thursday, FOX 32 Chicago spoke over the phone with a Punta Gorda resident who decided to hunker down in his home.
Luckily, he says, they only lost a few shingles and is currently using a generator. However, they could be without power for another week.
"After the hurricane, we got power back for an hour, and thought, ‘wow, we’re lucky on this one,’ but that lasted about an hour, and then it’s been off since 4 this morning," said Scott Buchanan. "Power, it’s just luck of the draw. We’re not near any hospital or emergency services so we’re not going to get power back anytime soon, so it could be a day, it could be a week before we get power back."
Buchanan is originally from Iowa and has family in Naperville, but despite hurricane season, he loves his Florida community.
"When I first heard about Ian, the first thing you do is go get gas and groceries because after everyone else, last minute rush, the stores will be empty, the gas station will be out of fuel, so we’re good, we got 20-30 gallons in gas cans to run the generator and by that time, the fuel stations should have their own generators and be back up so we can go get gas in a few days," Buchanan said.