Louisiana's All-Volunteer 'Cajun Navy' Has Arrived To Rescue Stranded Texans

“It’s more of a reciprocal gift of love back to them for what they did for us last year."

As tropical storm Harvey continues to rise water levels in Houston, help is riding in from Louisiana in the form of a group known as the Cajun Navy.

The volunteer rescue group, which some say was responsible for saving 10,000 people during 2005's Hurricane Katrina, hitched up its boats and drove west on Sunday after reports about the storm worsened. Though they've had some trouble getting into the city, social media call outs have already helped them navigate through the flooded streets of Houston to make some rescues.

On their way out, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Sen. Marco Rubio both wished them good luck as the hashtag #CajunNavy began trending on Twitter and Facebook.

About three dozen Cajun Navy members have made it to Houston to help those affected by Harvey, according to The New Yorker. There, they will help alongside more than 3,000 members of the National Guard who have already been deployed, in addition to hundreds of police officers and fire fighters, some from as far away as New York City.

Members of Cajun Navy aren't the only ones volunteering, either. After police in League City, just south of Houston, put a call out for shallow-water boats, the department said it was inundated with people offering to help. 

The Cajun Navy, on their way into Houston.

"We literally have hundreds of names and numbers and not enough manpower to go around," the department said on Facebook. "If we do not contact you please do not think that we do not appreciate your offer. We are simply overwhelmed with the number of offers for help."

Austin Mahan, who owns the A Day Away kayaking company in Florida, is on his way to Houston now with his business partner Jeff Lenington, four employees, 52 kayaks, life jackets and supplies like gas and water. They were looking for ways to help and came across the Cajun Navy Facebook page during their research, and Mahan's post on the page about bringing kayaks got over 350 likes. 

Despite never being involved in anything like this, Mahan and Lenington, who recently bought their company, said they were trying to figure out what kind of organization they wanted it to be. Ultimately, their hope is they can be community-focused, and a company that's known for doing good. Once they knew they wanted to do something, they had to ask themselves how they could help.

"It started out with just asking the question to see what the answer was and being ready to get there and be turned around and be okay with that," Mahan told A Plus. "I'm a Christian and I love my neighbor and I think that's important."

As Lenington and Mahan followed the news, they realized that — even if they got all the way there and officials told them they had enough help — it'd be worth the 20-hour drive to go offer their services. 

"We realized it was getting worse and worse," Lenington said. "Doing stuff like this is something we really identify with, we really want to help our community. We are Christian individuals and we do want to love our neighbor and help our neighbor in any way we can."

They expect that once they are there they will be dispatched to help by members of the Cajun Navy, who are taking on an increased role on the ground. But before the Cajun Navy even arrived, one news reporter caught a 15-year-old driving his boat through flooded streets trying to rescue families from Harvey's flooding.

Due to an influx of messages and phone calls, the Cajun Navy wasn't able to speak with A Plus in time for publication. But John Bridgers, one of the organizers of the Cajun Navy Facebook page, told The New Yorker that their decision to go help out in Texas was also part of paying it forward for the help Louisiana received from the Texas National Guard during Katrina and from Texans more generally after flooding last year. 

Freda Montgomery, a Baton Rouge resident, told The Advocate that her daughter's Houston-based church had come to help her neighborhood during a flood last year, so now she is collecting essential supplies and bringing them out to people in Houston.  

"It's more of a reciprocal gift of love back to them for what they did for us last year, plus we know they need it," Montgomery told the local newspaper. "How many times has Louisiana been in the crossfire, and how many times have people from other places helped us?"

Now, it certainly seems Texas is the one in the cross-hairs. More than 30,000 people are expected to be displaced to shelters, eight people have been reported dead, and some areas might see as much as 50 inches of rain. Yet, that spirit of collaboration, paying it forward and looking out for each other seems to be #HoustonStrong despite the enormous challenges being faced in Houston and all over eastern Texas. 

This story has been updated to include Mahan's story. 

Cover image via michelmond / Shutterstock.com.


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