Cajun Navy 2016’s Hurricane Sally Response

cajun navy 2016 arbor walk hurricane sally
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We have all heard the old phrase “being in the right place at the right time”. But on Sept 16th of 2020, a dedicated team of Cajun Navy 21016 volunteers responding to Hurricane Sally would be a prime example of this phrase.

Preparing for Hurricane Sally’s Landfall

In preparation of Sally making landfall in the Foley, AL area an 8 boat 25-person team was prepositioned at a local church.

Since the church was a metal building, cell service was nonexistent, and we relied strictly on the church’s WIFI for communications.

As the winds increased it wasn’t long before the area lost power and the team found itself without weather intel, it was time to try to get some rest. Sleeping was rough as it sounded at any minute the roof was about to come off the church.

One our team members woke us up at around 2am to let us know flood waters were entering the church, this was getting bad and fast.

Like a bunch of kids everyone wanted to go outside and do their best Jim Cantore weather interview. 

cajun navy 2016 pinnacle search rescue hurricane sally response

To best describe the amount of water that fell that night, even with the plugs removed several boats filled completely with rainwater. 

Standing outside to get cell phone service in the middle of a Cat 2 hurricane is a bad decision all the way around. 

Responding to Hurricane Sally

Jon Bridgers and I jumped into the old faithful F-250 and began working social media and the interweb to check on local storm reports, much like we did during Hurricane Harvey.

Earlier I had posted my personal contact information to the local LEO and governments Facebook pages, to let them know we were in the area and able to help. Little did I know that because of this post my phone would become the lifeline for people in need.

The winds at this point were the strongest we had seen, and the eye of the storm was closing in fast. Calls and text started pouring in for help.

Water was steadily rising and entering and trapping people in their homes. Request for help were pouring in faster than I could respond requesting more info, this is bad this is really bad. 

I entered the cluster of addresses, and they were all from one subdivision less than a ¼ of a mile from our church base camp.

Right place at the right time?

Only this was the right place at the worst time possible. The eye was coming ashore the winds were the worst we had seen so far.

Common sense and Cajun Navy 2016 protocol does not allow us to operate in winds greater than 35 mph.

Operating a boat in winds greater than 35 mph is dangerous at best and unless it is a direct life threatening emergency, we just can’t put our resources and teams at risk.

It was time to go do a risk assessment and see when it would be safe to go into Arbor Walk subdivision where the cluster of calls were coming from.

As we pulled up we met Cody Carraway from the Foley Fire Department who was already on scene in a brush truck.

I began to explain to him we had 8 boats ready to go in the water. He was in complete denial and couldn’t wrap his brain around the fact we had 8 boats and crews ready to do water rescues.

After about 3 times of explaining you could see an instant calm and relief come over him. He later told me he made a desperate prayer not minutes before asking God to help.

His fellow firemen were all on calls, boats were already on other calls and Cody was all alone.

In his darkest hour God heard his prayer and answered it with a group of average people willing to respond to Gods call to go help.

I left out a part on purpose because there is a lot more to this story, remember when I said the winds were not below the 35-mph threshold. 

As Jon and I started rolling to the subdivision we both began to pray

“Lord we put this in your hands, you know the needs and Lord we are here to do whatever you need us to do.”

Jon and Cody made a dash to the church to rally the troops. Just as the flotilla of mud boats came down the ditch from the church to the subdivision, the winds began to die down.

God had answered our prayers!

Rescue after rescue house to house making sure everyone was out and safe. This would be the scene for several hours, taking people from their flooded homes to the entrance of Arbor Walk by boat and then transport them to a local gas station by trucks.

When local authorities were unable to transport the families to local shelters due to flooded roads, the rain and winds were picking up and it was time to move fast.

The only option was to turn our base camp church into a shelter until everyone rescued could be picked up by friends and family.

Over 150 people and their fur family members were rescued that morning. God put us where he needed us to be.

We were in the right place at the right time! 

ben husser cajun navy 2016 pinnacle search rescue

Ben Husser

SWLA Division Director

About Cajun Navy 2016

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