‘Ca­jun Navy’ an­swers call for help

USA TODAY US Edition - - NEWS - Josh Hafner @josh­hafner

The dev­as­ta­tion of Louisiana’s record flood­ing be­came real for Timmy Toups on Satur­day as he scrolled through his Face­book news feed. Toups, an elec­tri­cian liv­ing south of New Or­leans, re­al­ized this wasn’t like Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina. Th­ese folks didn’t know to evac­u­ate.

“Th­ese peo­ple don’t flood,” Toups said.

Not nor­mally, any­way. “They live on high ground. Prob­a­bly most of them don’t even have flood in­sur­ance. Peo­ple were cry­ing for help on Face­book.”

So Toups, 35, de­cided to lend a hand. By 9 a.m. Sun­day, he and two friends rolled out in his truck with a fish­ing boat in tow and no plan but to help peo­ple.

By the end of Mon­day, Toups said he found him­self with 20some other vol­un­teer res­cuers whose boats sailed through flood­wa­ters to de­liver sup­plies and res­cue those trapped af­ter the storm that claimed at least 11 lives and left more than 40,000 homes dam­aged.

The makeshift flotil­las are op­er­at­ing un­der a name fa­mil­iar in Louisiana: the Ca­jun Navy. Eleven years ago, in the wake of Ka­t­rina, the orig­i­nal Ca­jun Navy formed as civil­ians took to the wa­ter in their boats to aid fel­low Louisia­ni­ans.

Over the week­end, the Ca­jun Navy — or at least the lat­est ver­sions of it – rose again.

“The re­al­ity of the Ca­jun Navy is ev­ery­body out here with a boat that isn’t dev­as­tated gets out and helps oth­ers,” said Clyde Cain, 53, from Tangi­pa­hoa Par­ish, who runs the Face­book page Louisiana Ca­jun Navy.

The Face­book page filled over the week­end with pho­tos of vol­un­teers cook­ing jam­bal­aya for hun­gry neigh­bors in Spring­field or sail­ing their boats through flooded streets. Posts told read­ers where to meet — to help or to get help.

Toups, who met Cain years ago through work, ex­pressed amaze­ment at how this ver­sion of the navy’s fleet came seem- in­gly out of nowhere. “A lot of it was hunt­ing boats, shal­low draft duck hunt­ing boats with mud mo­tors,” he said. “Air­boats. Pirogues. Kayaks. You name it. Ev­ery­body was wide open, go­ing at it.”

Toups knows of Cain’s plan to form a reg­is­tered Ca­jun Navy, one rec­og­nized by lo­cal gov­ern­ments and able to help au­thor­i­ties when the next storm hits. For lo­cals like him, it just makes sense, he said.

Said Toups: “We live in boats. My whole fam­ily is com­mer­cial fish­er­men. I grew up on the wa­ter. There is not too much that I’m go­ing to come across out there that I can­not deal with on the fly.”


Clyde Cain takes a selfie in front of some of the flood­wa­ters that dev­as­tated south­ern Louisiana over the week­end.

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