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Who is the Cajun Navy?

Tim Esterdahl
Oct 30, 2017
Surrounded by flood waters and struggling to survive, thousands of desperate people see nature’s wraith firsthand waiting for a rescue they don’t know for sure is coming. With thousands of people needing rescues, local emergency forces simply become overwhelmed. Fortunately, these stranded survivors don’t have to wait long thanks to the Cajun Navy. Powered through Facebook, this group of truck owners has sprung into action in the last big flood and Texas hurricane saving thousands of lives along the way.
Photo 2/8   |   Flooding.081316 TS 1011
The man behind the Cajun Navy 2016 Facebook page is Jon Bridgers, a local realtor, who says he created it on August 13, 2016 after hearing stories of people stranded in their homes due to massive flooding hitting the area. As much as 20 inches would fall overnight causing massive flooding and the devastation is said to be the worst since Hurricane Sandy slammed into the East Coast.
Bridgers lives in Watson, Louisiana which he says is about a mile from that flooding and from where Hurricane Katrina hit.
“I was watching the news and they were talking about how much water was coming up into people’s homes,” Bridgers said. “A bunch of them already had water in their homes. The Lord told me to do something and I created the page. Little did I know within 24 hours there would be 8,000 page likes and it all started from there.”
As people starting signing up, Bridgers said the response because almost overwhelming. During the first day, they had 3,000 messages in the Facebook inbox. He was literally tasked with sending people to rescue others without a call center or admin support. Little by little, he figured it out.
He recruited admins to help. They found a cell phone app that worked like a walkie talkie which allowed them to create 30 channels to coordinate efforts. They became more efficient.
People began to notice. CNN did a story and so did ABC News. The local media wrote several stories and emergency officials praised their help.
The Cajun Navy 2016 isn’t just locals helping locals. It is men and women with trucks and boats from all over the country. Bridgers says he had volunteers drive down to Louisiana from all over the country. He was surprised by people coming down from Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and he even had someone bring a party barge from Ohio. The word went out and people came.
People wanted to help and they came. It wasn’t just the people with boats and trucks though. Bridgers says one time he coordinated a group meet up at a local Costco on their way to Texas to help with Hurricane Katrina. Costco customers saw parking lot filled with boats and trucks and asked what was going on. As they learned what the Cajun Navy 2016 was up to, these customers went into Costco, loaded up baskets and filled the boats and trucks with items for the people they would rescue. Bridgers said every boat and truck leaving the parking lot was filled with items to go to rescues.
It wasn’t just the rescues who got these goods Bridgers says. At one point, the Cajun Navy 2016 helped provide supplies to the National Guard in the area who were running out.
This aid along with thousands of rescues made a big impact. The numbers tell the story. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005 more than 15,000 people lost their lives. When the skies opened up over Louisiana in August, 2016 13 people lost their lives and when Hurricane Harvey hit Texas 90 people lost their lives. Those numbers aren’t by accident Bridgers says.
“Back during Hurricane Katrina we didn’t have an organized group like we do now with Facebook,” Bridgers said. “We just had Cajuns loading up their boats and going down rescuing people. It was just getting started, it was nowhere where it is today.
That’s a significant drop in casualties and I guarantee you if we didn’t have the Cajun Navy 2016 page those numbers would still be really high.”
Bridgers says their are now multiple Cajun Navy pages on Facebook and the Cajun Navy 2016 page is the original. He also says he has been in contact with the Louisiana Governor to continue to work on improving the group’s operation and they are working on some new ideas.
Learn more about the Cajun Navy 2016 by finding it on Facebook or on at www.cajunnavy2016.org.

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