How the United Cajun Navy Steps In During Natural Disasters

The United Cajun Navy formed in the aftermath of the devastating hurricanes that hit Louisiana, beginning with Katrina (2005) and continuing with major flooding in Louisiana in 2017 and ongoing flooding in other southern U.S. states. As a result of this chain of environmental catastrophes, skilled Cajun boat pilots have banded together to give some relief to stranded civilians. Not all are Cajun, but all are now members of a team of private boaters who know how to navigate narrow channels and shallow waters.

How the United Cajun Navy Steps In During Natural Disasters 

Using shallow draft watercraft of all types, the United Cajun Navy has gone from a loose affiliation of volunteers to an organized system. In their airboats, Jon boats, bass boats and even kayaks the Cajun Navy has rescued hundreds of people in need during hurricanes and floods.

Although the term “Cajun Navy” has been around since at least 1964, when then Louisiana Governor Jimmie Davis gave them credit, this group of skilled volunteers has stepped up efforts in recent years due to need.

When Katrina hit in 2005, locals could not have been prepared for the scope of devastation. This storm hit New Orleans dead center, and trapped tens of thousands of residents in and on their houses due to floodwaters. A state senator, Nick Gautreaux, went on the airwaves and asked for help: an estimated 400 boat owners came out and hit the flooded streets. Although Katrina, which hit Louisiana hard in 2005, took the lives of at least 1,800 citizens (mostly in New Orleans), without the Cajun Navy the death toll would have been perhaps twice as high, or more.

Other major cities, such as Baton Rouge, also benefited from this cadre of volunteers who were able to rescue one family at a time from nearly certain death.

The Cajun Navy continues to operate as hurricanes become more frequent and severe due to climate change. This courageous group of individuals choose to risk their own lives for no monetary reward, and are credited with saving more than 10,000 people in Katrina’s wake.

The Cajun Navy in Recent History 

In 2016, the Cajun Navy became far more organized with the help of technology. With a facebook page and a few dedicated experts, they were able to set up a command central for communication. The facebook group and page acts as a way for stranded civilians to contact the Cajun Navy in a central location. This way, multiple volunteers do not respond to the same call for help, and are freed up to go where they are most needed.

Since their formation, this volunteer group mobilizes when needed. Most recently, Cajun Navy volunteers pitched in to help rescue efforts from Tropical Storm Gordon (2019) back in New Orleans.