NEW ORLEANS — The Cajun Navy has come a long way since Eyewitness News first reported on a bunch of guys with boats helping during the 2016 St. James Parish floods. When Hurricane Ian went ashore, the group headed to Florida.
First responders feared they were getting in the way of emergencies, but during blue sky times, they made pre-arrangements with public officials in many states, and now deploy with them.
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“I think the Cajun Navy is on the way, and OK, there we go. And look, we really welcome them, and those are really some battle hardened folks,” Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida said in press conference Wednesday as the storm approached.
Before Hurricane Ian hit DeSantis got preliminary word that the United Cajun Navy was heading his way, but the all-volunteer group of men and women, were already there, staging before the storm.
“We knew that the flooding was going to be bad. The wind damage was going to be bad. We knew there was going to be no electricity,” Brian Trascher, the Vice-President and National Spokesman for the United Cajun Navy said.
They had high water vehicles and jeeps ready to go from members in Florida, Georgia and Louisiana.
“Being combat experience veterans, they're well equipped for this, because there's nothing that they're going to see that's going to freak them out, and nothing they're going to be scared to run into.”
Wednesday overnight around 12:30, the Cajun Navy got busy.
“(We) made the decision to move our teams from Brandon, Florida down to Fort Myers, because we were getting all these distress calls,” Trascher said.
The United Cajun Navy has already rescued a couple of dozen people and done many more extractions of people stranded.
“We've identified a truck stop in Fort Myers that's going to be closed for the next couple of days, and they're letting us bring people there. And then the state of Florida emergency officials are sending their resources there to pick these people up and distribute them to state run shelters,” Trasher said.
Here’s why they do it.
“We're able to get out there and save lives and help make people's lives better. We've all been through it in Southeast Louisiana so we know how bad it is. It's scary. There's a lot of emotions involved, and we just kind of want to soften that blow as much as we can,” he said.
The United Cajun Navy now has chapters in several states. Those helping in Florida, now are from a few chapters, including Baton Rouge. And they are expanding their helping hands, even as far away as Ukraine.
“I just got back from Puerto Rico, Meg. We were doing air cargo drops in the south side of the island. We were coordinating with some local non-profits down there to help some Hurricane Fiona victims.
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