The United Cajun Navy has made its way to southwestern Florida to assist with rescue efforts following the devastation of Hurricane Ian.
The group of volunteer first responders was formed after Hurricane Katrina and reactivated in 2016 during the Louisiana floods to help affected victims. Since then, the citizen-led group has led rescue efforts following natural disasters across the southern U.S., including after Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma in 2017.
At first, the group was concerned they might interfere with recovery efforts but are now working side-by-side with state officials in aiding victims, according to 4 WWL.
Upon the news the Cajun Navy was deploying to the Sunshine State just before the Category Four storm made landfall, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) expressed appreciation that the experienced group was on its way.
“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,” DeSantis said on Wednesday.
The group relocated its operations from the Tampa area to Fort Myers after receiving more “distress calls” in the area and wasted no time getting victims to safety.
Brian Trascher, Vice-President and spokesman for the United Cajun Navy, via 4 WWL, said:
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,” said The group was ready to deploy to southwestern Florida with multiple high water vehicles and jeeps because of the multiple chapters they have across the southwestern region.
After having experienced the devastation that natural weather can inflict on victims – especially given the history in Louisiana – Cajun Navy members understand the fears Floridians may face at the moment.
“We’ve all been through it in Southeast Louisiana so we know how bad it is, said Trascher. “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,”
The citizen-led group is not just confined to the U.S. southeast but has also helped those affected by Hurricane Fiona in Puerto Rico. Some group members have even traveled all the way to Ukraine to help victims of the ongoing war.
The Cajun Navy is accepting donations on its website as they continue to help the victims of this week’s devastating storm.
You can follow Ethan Letkeman on Twitter at @EthanLetkeman.