Cajun Navy moves toward Port Arthur as need shifts

Updated: Aug. 30, 2017 at 6:56 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The  mission of the Cajun Navy shifted Wednesday toward the Louisiana state line due to changing conditions caused by Harvey.

For many, the mission hits close to home due to having relatives in that part of Texas and previous experience with floods.

"There were some pretty bad segments between here and Channelview, Texas," said New Orleans native Scott Elston.

Elston and his Cajun Navy flotilla of 15 boats arrived in the Houston area Tuesday night after having to negotiate roads covered with rising water - like Highway 90 near Beaumont.

For Elston, the mission is personal. His brother, Steve, has been faced with rising water in his West Houston neighborhood for three days. But Elston's  flotilla, which spent the night near Houston, was sent back east to Port Arthur to deal with rising waters there as Harvey made its third landfall.

"We spent the night in a church there, we found out we were more needed in Port Arthur, so we headed back east," said Elston.

The evacuation center in Port Arthur flooded Tuesday night, forcing evacuees to spend the night at a bowling alley.

"We are in Port Arthur right now. We are one of the main groups there," said Shawn Boudreaux, with Cajun Navy Relief.

Harvey's shifting floodwaters have been a challenge for the Cajun Navy. Hundreds of homes from southeast Texas to southwest Louisiana are flooded, many to the rafters.

"I've never seen it this bad here. This is pretty high," said one evacuee.

Boudreaux has been busy the past two days dispatching boats from Lake Charles and working closely with the U.S. Coast Guard.

"I anticipate I will be here all week and into next week," said Boudreaux.

The Coast Guard conducted hundreds of rescues 12 years ago during Katrina and is active once again from Houston to Lake Charles. Missions are being coordinated from New Orleans.

"We have a crew of about 60 people providing logistics support for more than 2000 responders downrange," said Coast Guard Adm. Paul Thomas.

But they can't be everywhere, and as calls for help shift to the Port Arthur area, they appreciate the assist from the Cajun Navy.

"The Cajun Navy, God bless those guys. And it's way bigger than that. There's a Texan Navy, and every other state has a Navy," said Thomas.

Elston and his flotilla will be on the job in the Port Arthur area for a while.

"It's called paying it forward," he said. "I was lucky to have people I didn't know help me with my house in Baton Rouge when I got flooded."

And for those rescued by the Cajun Navy, the gratitude is real.

"We're gonna come back from it...thanks to beautiful people like you," said one rescued victim in Houston.

There are a lot of New Orleans-Houston connections.  If you know someone in need, the Cajun Navy relief organization asks that you let them know via their website.

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