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Florida dentist gets bird's-eye view of Irma's devastation on the Keys

September 26, 2017

By Kimber Solana

 
Volunteers: Dr. Charles Llano, second from right, pose for a photo with a group of volunteers from Southeastern University who loaded his Piper Lance P-32 single-engine aircraft with water, food and supplies. Dr. Llano, a private pilot, was among a group of volunteer pilots who flew to the Florida Keys to deliver the supplies to those affected by Hurricane Irma.
Lakeland, Fla. — Dr. Charles Llano has flown over areas hit by hurricanes before, but what Hurricane Irma left behind still seemed unbelievable.
    
"All the color was gone," he said. "Everything was gray. There was no green. All the foliage was stripped. And many of the houses were just gone."
     
Dr. Llano had a bird's-eye view of the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma, which made landfall Sept. 10 in Florida and caused massive flooding and power outage and knocked down trees and homes.
    
Dr. Llano was flying a Piper Lance P-32 single-engine aircraft to Summerland Key, Florida, carrying bottled water, tarps and meals ready to eat and delivering them to one of the islands in the Florida Keys hardest hit by the storm.
    
He was one of about two dozen pilots volunteering with AERObridge, an all-volunteer group that organizes and coordinates relief missions using donated aircraft.
    
A dentist who practices in Lakeland, Florida, Dr. Llano is also a private pilot, logging more than 3,000 hours of flight since learning how to fly in 1984. When a group of his friends who are also pilots discussed volunteering to fly over supplies to those stranded in the Keys, Dr. Llano didn't hesitate to contribute.

"As soon as my power and communication lines were back up, I signed up," he said. He logged on Sept. 12, and the next day he was delivering water and food in the Keys, landing on private airports coordinated through AERObridge to unload the supplies.
    
He flew to Summerland Key for three days until the roads were cleared enough to allow trucks through to deliver larger amounts of food, water and supplies.
    

Water and supplies: Water, ready-to-eat meals, tarps and diapers were among the supplies Dr. Charles Llano, a private pilot, delivered to Summerland Key, one of the islands in the Florida Keys hardest hit by Hurricane Irma.
Dr. Llano, who has a second home in Summerland Key that survived the hurricane, said people continue to clean up and assess the damage. As of Sept. 21, despite not having water and electricity, his friends and family in Summerland Key are doing well, he said.
    
Dr. Llano is no stranger to helping those in need. After receiving his dental degree in 1974, he worked as a dentist for four years with the U.S. Public Health Service, providing care for migrant workers and their families in Florida.

"I think I'm pretty hardened with what I've seen in my life," said Dr. Llano, 70. "But seeing people come together to help each other, it affects you emotionally. They don't need to be there, but they're there to help anyway."
     
Dentists in Florida affected by Hurricane Irma are encouraged to apply for both the ADA Foundation's Emergency Disaster Grant Program and the Florida Dental Association Foundation's Disaster Relief Grant Program. ADA Foundation applications will be forwarded to the Florida Dental Association with the applicant's consent, streamlining the application process. Each organization provides financial assistance for immediate personal needs such as food, water, clothing, emergency shelter and medications. The ADA Foundation provides up to $2,000 in immediate financial assistance. FDA Foundation grants may not exceed $1,500 per dentist.
    
Drew Eason, Florida Dental Association executive director, said the Florida Dental Association has received about 30 relief grant applications. Dentists affected by a disaster have up to 60 days to apply for an ADA Foundation Emergency Disaster Assistance Grant.
    
To apply or to donate, visit ADAFoundation.org and floridadental.org, or contact the ADA Foundation at 1-312-440-2547 or adaf@ada.org.