In the wake of Hurricane Florence—and Harvey and Maria and Irma and Katrina and dozens of other storms before them, it’s clear that hurricanes are a frightening reality of life for many Southerners. While scientists expect the South to be battered by more storms and fiercer ones in the future, there is a ray of hope—the Cajun Navy. When the rain starts to fall, the wind starts knocking over trees, and the water starts to rise, these homegrown heroes are there to help save the day.
The Cajun Navy was founded in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when Louisianians jumped into boats to rescue people trapped by water when the levees broke in New Orleans. The National Guard and other authorities told them they couldn’t, but “they went in and did it” anyway, Clyde Cain, founder of the Louisiana Cajun Navy based in Hammond, told the Herald Sun.
The ad hoc group again jumped into action when what locals call the Great Flood swept through Baton Rouge. The loose collection of groups that operate under the name of the Cajun Navy have organized rescue operations for every major storm and flood since, organizing via Facebook pages and welcoming anyone who shows up into their ranks of volunteers.
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They loaded boats on the backs of trucks to make the 300-mile trip to Houston in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. The kind-hearted group of Louisianians wanted to help their neighbors in need after Harvey dropped some 50 inches of rain, flooding the Lone Star state, and stranding people in their houses without access to food, clean water, or dry land. Turns out that the flat-bottomed pirogues and maneuverable boats typically used to navigate the narrow and shallow byways of the bayous, were ideal for use on Houston’s flooded streets. The Cajun Navy volunteers spent days shuttling desperately needed supplies to stranded homeowners and helping people get to safety, including senior citizens stuck in a nursing home, when first responders were busy elsewhere. By the time the worst of the storm was over, the Cajun Navy’s 1,200 volunteers had reportedly rescued more than 10,000 people.
The brave volunteers are still hard at work. As Hurricane Florence targeted the Carolinas, The Advocate reported that roughly 100 volunteers from the Baton Rouge-based United Cajun Navy traveled to South Carolina with boats, emergency supplies, and an ambulance-turned-mobile command unit ready to help those in need. Volunteer Brien McGlynn, a U.S. Navy veteran and nurse, told The Advocate, “We go where the weather goes, wherever the most help is needed.” That is the sign of a true hero. The next time a hurricane blows through the South, know that help is on its way, either in the form of the National Guard or the Cajun Navy in their boats ready to do whatever they can for a neighbor in need.