Sep 14, 2018, 10:58 AM ET

Armed with boats and air mattresses, Cajun Navy rescues 160 trapped by Florence

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The Cajun Navy came to the aid of 160 people in North Carolina Friday morning, many of whom had to be rescued from the roofs of their cars after they were stranded while trying to drive away from the devastation of Hurricane Florence.

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"The tide came up really strong -- five to eight feet, they're saying -- and a lot of the people did not get out ... got stuck in conditions on the roads," Todd Terrell, the founder of the Cajun Navy, told ABC News. "So a lot of people we were rescuing from the tops of their vehicles."

PHOTO: The Cajun Navy provided volunteers for Hurricanes Harvey in Houston, as well as Hurricane Irma in the Florida Keys and Hurricane Marine in Puerto Rico, during the 2017 season.KTRK
The Cajun Navy provided volunteers for Hurricanes Harvey in Houston, as well as Hurricane Irma in the Florida Keys and Hurricane Marine in Puerto Rico, during the 2017 season.

The Cajun Navy is an informal volunteer group -- comprising mainly of private boat owners -- who assist in search and rescue efforts. The organization was formed after Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana in 2005.

Around 310 people from nine different states are on the ground in New Bern, North Carolina, providing resources and manpower to first responders, Terrell said. Some have traveled hundreds of miles to help in any way they can -- including getting people out with air mattresses when boats can't be used.

"The winds were so high, we couldn't get [the boats] in there because the winds were toppling them and it was making it unsafe for us, so we had to use a couple of air mattresses and float people out," Terrell said.

PHOTO: Texas resident Taylor Fontenot, a member of the Cajun Navy, is driving 18 hours to the Carolinas to help with efforts for Hurricane Florence. KTRK
Texas resident Taylor Fontenot, a member of the Cajun Navy, is driving 18 hours to the Carolinas to help with efforts for Hurricane Florence.

Volunteers encountered another problem.

"The current is way stronger in this one and the water came up like in minutes," Terrell said. "Two to three feet of water came up within minutes."

Taylor Fontenot, a roofer in Sugar Land, Texas, joined the Cajun Navy last year after Hurricane Harvey hit the Lone Star state in August 2017. He traveled to the Florida Keys after Hurricane Irma ravaged the islands in September 2017 and flew to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria hit just weeks later.

On Wednesday, Fontenot packed up diving gear, a rappelling harness, first aid supplies, a chainsaw and Houston Texans football cleats to bring with him to the Carolinas.

The volunteers hope to keep the hurricane a "zero-casualty event," Fontenot said.

News - Armed with boats and air mattresses, Cajun Navy rescues 160 trapped by Florence

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  • Bud Simpson

    I never heard of the Cajun Navy before, but I'll never forget them. Well done you guys!

  • have the faith

    we lived thru hurricane katrina and the government response was horrible! they tried to centrally plan and control everything just like russia and china. thousands of volunteers with their boats were turned around on interstate 10, because they were afraid of these volunteers "running out of gas." then mr. brown the new politically appointed director for fema wanted "all authorization to come from only him." why does central planning fail? because thousands of people have thousands of different individual needs and millions of conversations are had to comw up with 100s of thousands of solutions. Mr.Brown at fema could only plan what was in his immediate vicinity, when crimes like rape started happening in the superdome Fema director Brown was Clueless that their was over 10,000 evacuees in the facility.President Bush was a Moron for "waiting until an OFFICAL REQUEST For Federal Aid was presented from the Govenor Himself." (lesson to learn central planning fails,)

  • Kenneth Sousa

    Kudos to these citizen volunteers. Yet another reason to be proud of our country and its citizens. Note that FEMA is not the first responder. Local resources and citizen volunteers are the critical first responders. FEMA will get there quickly and fulfill their mission soon. The federal government is simply not responsible or capable to be the first on site. This is why there are political subdivisions commonly referred to as states. Please stop blaming FEMA for not being a babysitter every time something goes wrong.

  • (((Rocket Cat)))

    Well, that's just nice.

  • Clint

    Right there's some mighty fine folks.

  • justanewsreader

    "Boats on the Ground?????" Maybe the author of the article needs to figure out what the great guys/gals in the Cajun Navy do. "Boats in the Water" would have been technically correct. Editor missed it too. So, for all you CN folks, please continue to do the great work you do - but not "on the ground," but in the water please!!!!!!!!!!

  • Thomas

    Good people helping other people in a disaster.

    That's what American's do.

  • Tommy Wo

    Despite the best efforts of Donald Trump and Russia to divide us and undermine our way of life, deep down in our hearts, the American people still believe in helping each other in times of need.