Since historic flooding hit Louisiana last week, killing 13 people, thousands of residents were evacuated and roughly 40,000 homes have been affected by the downpour.
President Barack Obama signed a major disaster declaration Sunday, and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is reportedly visiting flooded areas in Louisiana Thursday to review the Federal response.
But unlike Hurricane Katrina, which had media flocking to cover the hard-hit city of New Orleans, Baton Rouge resident, Rob Gaudet, tells Independent Journal Review news coverage hasn't been nearly what it should be:
“The media hasn’t been covering this like Katrina, they haven’t even given this flood a name. They need people stranded on rooftops to have it sensationalized, but the story we have to share is people saving each other.”
Gaudet would know. He's the point man for the Cajun Navy, a group of volunteers which formed via social media in response to the recent flooding.
Gaudet explains that the Cajun Navy is comprised of dozens of volunteers from Louisiana and Mississippi, with about 60 boats to help rescue those in need. They're also working with the local authorities, with Louisiana deputies on board every one in three boats to assist their team.
They are fueled by nothing more than a steadfast commitment to helping their neighbors and are using two apps to navigate their rescue missions — Zello, which is a central dispatch communication system and Glympse, which allows them to geolocate stranded victims.
Gaudet says social media has played an integral role in their successful rescue missions:
“We get a request on Facebook, then vet the request through the National Guard. We pick up things that fall through cracks. Typically, we start by finding the nearest boater and go from there. It's been a great system that hasn't asked for anyone's money to get things done — we don't have a GoFundMe page, logo and we don't sell t-shirts, it's just people getting together to help their neighbors.”
He adds that many volunteers, himself included, have gotten little sleep in the past three days, but they know what they're doing is making a difference:
"When the deputies have to leave and it's dark out, our guys are still out working because it's personal — it's their moms, friends and neighbors out there.
We had a pregnant woman Tuesday night around 10:30 p.m. contact us on on Facebook saying her house wasn't flooded, but it was on an island and isolated. We took the call — much like the hundreds of other stories like this — and we got her water. On our way back, we got a call there were three cats stuck on a roof and didn't get back till 1 a.m. At least five guys I know."
Through tears, Gaudet says the first people to respond in Louisiana were victims of Hurricane Katrina.
He explains though he was in Shreveport, Louisiana, when the historic hurricane hit New Orleans, he and his family took in some evacuees. They lived with them until they could get back on their feet.
He sees the same thing happening in Baton Rouge — neighbors helping neighbors:
“One girl hasn’t slept since 5 a.m. yesterday [Wednesday]. She was one of the first people in our group and she’s still going — you can hear it in her voice. I recently asked her when she plans on sleeping, to which she responded, 'I’ll sleep when I have time.'”
Gaudet says the Cajun Navy even came across a woman and her family sitting in lawn chairs that were submerged in six inches of water, under a canopy. They had every reason to be sad, frustrated, and upset, but instead they greeted everyone with a warm smile and pot of gumbo:
"I walk up and instead of saying, 'Hey who are you?' they say, 'Hey ya’ll, have some gumbo!’
Then a group of six young men, who I felt looked suspicious, approached them. I started thinking, 'Who are these guys?' but this woman didn't flinch, she offered them gumbo too. She wasn't afraid, despite all the looting going on in Louisiana right now."
Though he doesn't have exact numbers, Gaudet tells Independent Journal Review that the Cajun Navy has likely rescued 20 percent of those who've been rescued so far.
In fact, he says one man single-handedly saved one thousand people out of houses in just 24 hours, which is just another story Gaudet believes you won't see on your evening news.