USA TODAY US Edition
‘Cajun Navy’ answers call for help
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.”