A citizen’s armada of volunteer boaters, the ‘Cajun Navy’ was born in response to Hurricane Katrina. But its commitment to saving the lives of people stranded in flood waters since is near legend now.
Begun in Louisiana after a plea for help to rescue stranded residents of New Orleans, the ‘Cajun Navy’ has been there for people trapped in the flood waters in the 2016 floods that inundated Louisiana and again were in their boats saving lives during Hurricane Harvey.
Now in the Carolinas, where every other rescue image on social media and elsewhere online seems to include Cajun Navy volunteers in jon boats, pontoon boats, air boats, canoes, kayaks, even mattresses, their heroics are heralded.
The citizen navy has large trucks too to drive and carry the rescued to the safety of dry land. But it’s a dangerous under taking, though that has not deterred these heroes.
Here’s what you need to know about how the Cajun Navy takes rescue requests and then carries out operations, and some of the people they have helped and likely lives they have saved in the Carolinas, suffering catastrophic flooding from now Tropical Depression Florence:
1. ‘Stand Down,’ the Cajun Navy Warned; It’s ‘Not Safe!’
While the Cajun Navy volunteers have been in the Carolinas for days, even this intrepid navy is advising caution to volunteers; it’s not safe for volunteers heading to North Carolina and parts of South Carolina.
“Attention Louisiana Cajun Navy volunteer crews and supply crews heading this way. N.C. and parts of S.C. Are NOT SAFE! Flash floods! If you have a crew or caravan heading this way. Do not go to North Carolina. Please message our Facebook page to be rerouted to a secure location. We will still be sending supplies to where they are needed in N.C. but first we need to make sure those sending them are safe. If you were thinking about coming this way with supplies or donations, STAND DOWN until further notice. It is not safe. Only messages us for the new route if you are already inbound with supplies.
We have a safe staging area for those on there way already. If you are already on your way please message the page so we can get you the address to our secure staging location.”
2. And While the Cajun Navy Cautions New Volunteers to Stand By, It’s Been Busy Conducting Hundreds of Rescues Since Friday When Florence Arrived
The Cajun Navy was on the ground days before the storm and began updating residents right away starting with altering people tot he fact that Facebook activated its safety check feature which allows people in the affected area to let friends know they are safe. Facebook has also other features within safety check that allow people to ask for and give help to one another during a crisis.
Then, they told folks how to let them know when help was needed.
“If you are needing rescue, want to help rescue, or to view the rescue area maps, please visit Crowd Source Rescue. Please do NOT post rescue requests on our FB page, as they will most likely not be seen,” they asked. Although countless people have posted for help on the Facebook page.
“As all lines of communication with most rescue groups are inundated with calls, we feel this is the best option for you at this time, other than your local emergency centers. Help us to work smarter, not harder.”
3. New Bern Then Lumberton Are Among the Hardest Hit & Where Cajun Navy Volunteers Have Worked Around-The-Clock
It was New Bern on the North Carolina coast that was the first community to suffer the worst of the initial storm surge from then-Hurricane Florence. The Cajun Navy was there.
“As a citizen of New Bern i just want to give a huge THANK YOU to the Cajun Navy! We couldn’t have made it without you! A sincere thank you to all those who are a part of this amazing group who risked their lives for others. God has given you a special gift,” a resident posted on the Cajun Navy ‘Florence Rescue Requests’ Facebook page.
A day later, Lumberton, many miles away too was under water from the torrential rains Florence dropped. The Cajun Navy was there.
People in need of rescuing fill out a very brief online form with as much information as they can provide here. This also brings folks to the pages for volunteers, ways to send supplies and donate as well as request supplies.
4. The Cajun Navy Helped Local First Responders Rescue Ill & Elderly People From a Nursing Home
On a roadway behind Lumberton High School, a road completely under water, the Highland Acres Nursing & Rehabilitation Home was being flooded from all sides. It was around 4 in the afternoon and the rain was falling hard and the rising waters were threatening. Patients and staff members needed to be rescued.
Local and regional first responders were on the scene. But so too was the Cajun Navy who provided support and helped to evacuate patients.
5. When the Plea Came for Boaters to Help Save Lives During Hurricane Katrina, the Cajun Navy was Born & Have Been There for the 2016 LA Floods & Hurricane Harvey
Officials went on TV asking for folks with boats to go the a New Orleans mall parking lot. It was reported then around a few dozen boats, tops, were expected. Some 400 showed up. It was pre-dawn two days after Katrina assaulted New Orleans. It was reported then that a “makeshift flotilla that has come to be called the Cajun Navy, an eight-mile convoy of boats that made the two hour ride to New Orleans. Altogether, the Cajun Navy is credited with rescuing more than 10,000 people from flooded homes and rooftops.”