These Two Anglers Risk Their Lives (And Boat) To Rescue People In Louisiana Flood [Video]

By: Joseph Simonds on August 25, 2016
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Louisiana flood 2016

While Luke and I were down lobstering in the Florida Keys a couple of weeks ago, we did a pretty good job of staying “unplugged” from our computers and the TV.

In fact, the only time the TV ever came on was for an hour at night to catch up on the Olympics, and the house we were staying in had the slowest Internet in the country, so we rarely even got online.

Besides, we were down there to slay lobster and enjoy Islamorada with our family.

And then on the day I arrived home in Tampa I received a private Facebook message from one of our Salt Strong Ambassadors named Jacinda Rose that mentioned she wanted to buy another one of our ambassadors a new hat…

Apparently, this other ambassador, Jacob Cantrelle, had lost his favorite Salt Strong hat while trying to rescue people from the flooding in Louisiana with his buddy Capt. Devin Denman (of the Louisiana Fishing Blog)

Flooding? What flooding? How did I miss this news?

After looking into it, I realized just how bad things were in many parts of south Lousiana.

But the big question was how did I not know about this here in Florida?

How was this not making national news?

How was the president not taking action, declaring this a national disaster, and sending in some serious manpower for help?

Louisiana flood 2016

Sam Breen tows his skiff as he helps a friend retrieve his dogs Edison, foreground, and Allie, from his home in Bossier City, La. – Image Source: www.foxnews.com

To put the 2016 Louisiana flooding into perspective, the worst flood in decades to hit Louisiana was way back in 1983. Not only was this flood worse, it was worse by over 5 feet of water!

In fact, the Red Cross said this 2016 Louisiana Flood is the most catastrophic natural disaster to hit America since Hurricane Sandy.

According to the Foundation For Economic Education:

And since this flooding happened so quick, calls to 911 were taking hours to be reached because everyone started calling at the same time (when they realized how serious this was).

The only good news was that anglers and sportsman from all over Louisiana came to the rescue with their boats, jon boats, canoes, kayaks, airboats, and anything else that could float.

They risked their lives to help both neighbors, complete strangers, and even pets and livestock that were stranded in their homes and fields. They have dubbed this crew of life-saving sportsmen and women “The Cajun Navy” (many of the same heroes that got fed up waiting for the government to help during Katrina and decided they had to act).

louisiana flood 2016 cajun navy

The Cajun Navy saving people. Image source: www.wbur.org

There are many articles praising just how much this “Cajun Navy” has done, and many are saying these non-paid heroes have done way more than the government or public emergency system has (like this article: “In Louisiana, Private Disaster Relief Outperforms The Government”)

Who knows how many more lives would have been lost if these amazing citizens hadn’t taken action instead of waiting on the government.

Here is a hard-hitting picture (with time stamps) so you can see just how much water hit many of the areas of South Louisiana.

This picture below is what the neighborhood looked like a few days after the water finally went down.

2016 louisiana flood pic

Neighborhood pic a few days after the flood subsided. Image source: Liz Williston

Here are the exact same three homes during the flood.

2016 louisiana flood

Same neighborhood during the worst of the flood. Image source: Liz Williston

Pretty scary picture. Could you imagine if this was your home? No doubt everything inside is completely ruined.

Regarding anglers Jacob and Capt. Denman, wait until you hear their heroic (and scary) story while out saving lives on their first run.

Note that Jacob and Capt. Denman continued to go out and offer help anyway they could after this story occurred.

Here is their story from a Nola.com interview.

“It was a wild-goose chase,” Denman said. “Either the people were already rescued by the time we got there, or we couldn’t get there at all because the water was so high, the power lines were like a wall keeping us from going in certain areas.”

Denman said in some areas the water was many feet deep, but in others, it was so shallow his boat couldn’t make any headway.

“There were tons of underwater obstructions, and I found them all,” he said.

He got a report of people in need of rescue in Plantation Estates, but in order to reach them, Denman had to navigate under an I-12 overpass.

“I had to go through what I can best describe as white-water rapids,” he said. “For a Louisiana boy in his flatboat, that was a little nerve-wracking, but we got through.”

It was worth the challenges to get there. Denman and Cantrelle found residents in need of evacuation in Plantation Estates, and ferried them to dry land and safety. They worked long after the sun had set, until they could find no one else who needed assistance. They decided to navigate the boat back to the truck and trailer, and resume their rescue efforts in the morning.

But there was a problem.

When Denman tried to navigate under the overpass, he discovered he couldn’t fight the current. If he lowered his 70-horsepower outboard, it would hit concrete, stop the boat’s momentum and turn it sideways. If he trimmed the motor up, he couldn’t generate enough thrust to fight the current.

So he motored atop the floodwaters to the overpass near Bass Pro Shops, figuring the current would be lighter there because the interchange is wider and less constricted.

Upon arrival, they discovered that was not the case, but they didn’t have much choice. They eased into the onrushing water, but would never reach their destination.

“(The water) flipped us sideways again, but this time, it was much more violent,” Denman said. “We hit a traffic sign, and it flipped the boat on its side, and water came in.”

A combat veteran, Denman said it wasn’t the worst thing he’s ever been through, but the situation certainly looked harrowing for a few moments.

“You could walk through the water, but you had to be careful because it would sweep you off of your feet,” he said. “We tried half a dozen methods to free the boat so we could push her to shallower water, but it just wasn’t happening. The sheer force of the water … was just so strong, she was pinned against that traffic sign.”

Weary from the long day and the efforts to right the flatboat, Denman and Cantrelle walked around and looked for a place to spend the night. They found an abandoned 18-wheeler, and settled in the back of the cab for a little sleep on the warm, muggy night.

Sunday morning, they walked from Denham Springs to Baton Rouge, where Denman linked up with a buddy who took him and Cantrelle back to his truck. On the way, Denman swung by to check on the boat he affectionately refers to as GnarTooth. It’s an old 16-foot flat his father owned that Denman restored because of its sentimental value. He shot a video of the boat’s predicament.

Monday morning, a friend sent Denman another video captured from the overpass. GnarTooth, he said, was still there, but had been covered by another boat. He was headed to Denham Springs, intending to use a winch to pull his old boat to safety.

“She’ll be fine,” he said. “She just got a bubble bath, that’s all. I’m going to pull her out. She’ll probably fire right up.”

Check out the live footage of where his boat ended up that day.

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Louisiana’s Problems Aren’t Over Yet…

Just because you see the water level down in pictures like the before and after pics above doesn’t mean things are back to normal. In fact, many of those homes will have to be completely gutted and rebuilt from the inside.

Thousands have lost their homes, cars, and pretty much everything they own, not to mention, many are still without power, without a home, etc.

To make matters worse, there is another storm headed into the Gulf, and even if it doesn’t hit Louisiana directly, there is certainly some rain headed their way (which is the last thing they need as they try to rebuild).

How can you help?

There are many relief funds you can donate to from all of the big names such as Salvation Army, American Red Cross, etc, but I would encourage you to look at some of the smaller groups that are taking 100% of what is donated and putting it to use.

Here is a great Facebook group called “Louisiana Flood: Meet The Need” with tons of different resources to see your donations at work.

A huge thanks to Jacob Cantrelle, Capt. Devin Denman, and all of the Cajun Navy that risked their lives, their boats, and put everything they had into saving lives.

It’s refreshing to see anglers and outdoorsmen of all walks of life coming together to make the world a better place in times of disaster.

Louisiana Strong!

P.S. – If you think your angler friends or networks would like to see this, please Tag them or Share this with them.

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