As Hurricane Laura bears down on the Gulf Coast with a view toward making landfall along the Louisiana-Texas border, the "Cajun Navy" is preparing to deploy their rescue and relief operations in the region. The informal collection of boat owners, many of whom are skilled in navigating the swamps, rivers, and lakes of the region, is bracing for the dual catastrophes of the more-immediate approaching hurricane and the more broad matter of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Back in 2005, as water covered much of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, a group of loosely-organized volunteers assembled to help in whatever way they could. The region around New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana is rife with boat owners: recreational and professional fishers as well as boaters who simply enjoy a day on the water. Since the floodwaters kept many of the victims from rescue, the volunteers used the best resource they had available -- their boats -- to rescue victims and to bring relief.
According to Fortune, the group rescued as many as 10,000 people trapped by the floodwaters.
The organization sort of dissipated for the next decade, but reemerged in 2016 when devastating floods came again to Louisiana. Since then, they've deployed in the aftermaths of Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, the 2018 Hidalgo County flood, Hurricane Florence, Tropical Storm Gordon, and Hurricane Michael.
They're credited with rescuing tens of thousands of people during those events.
According to the website of the Louisiana Cajun Navy, they have a three-pronged approach to their disaster response.
First is Rescue: "[We go] out on the front lines while disaster is still striking and [save] all the lives we can." Second is Relieve: "...making sure everyone has clean water, fresh clothing, hot meals, and everything they need to feel comfortable and safe." Third is Rebuild: "From demolition, clean up, organizing and distribution of supplies, we want to make sure every family has a place to call home again."
"There's no better thing you could do in a time of need for somebody else than help them out, because no matter what it is, we've all been down on our luck or been in a bad position before, so I feel like if it's not me in that position, I'm going to go help somebody."
Clyde Cain, of Hammond, Louisiana, noted that this time, rescuers and their managers will have to plan for COVID-19 as they carry out their efforts. He noted that, inasmuch as maintaining social distancing while rescuing someone is a difficult proposition, he and other volunteers are struggling with how to structure their rescues.
"It's been really hard," he said.