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Cajun Navy Volunteer Rescuer On Responding To Storm


And Tropical Storm Florence continues to drench the Carolinas. There's flooding, downed trees and buckled roads. Trillions of gallons of water have come down as rain. Nearly a million people are without power. At least five deaths have been linked to the storm. And, of course, rescue efforts are underway at this moment. Todd Terrell is with the Cajun Navy, a volunteer rescue group, and he joins us from Wilmington, N.C. Mr. Terrell, Captain Terrell - whatever I call you - thanks so much for being with us.

TODD TERRELL: Yes, sir. Thank y'all for having me.

SIMON: And what are you seeing? How bad is this? And you have seen a lot.

TERRELL: We've seen a lot. Last night, honestly, was about the scariest part I've been with a group of volunteers, even though it wasn't the worst weather we went through. In Wilmington, we - I guess, we caught the tail end of it. And as it came through here, they had some straight-line winds came through over our head. We were actually sleeping in a truck. And it was pretty rough. Now, we're in Wilmington right now. We're actually going to go a little bit north to Burgaw and over to Jacksonville. We've got calls out for specific rescues that we're about to make. So that's where we're heading out to now. But it's coming down pretty good. The rain's still really, really, really bad.

SIMON: Mr. Terrell, you're all from Louisiana?

TERRELL: Yes, sir. I'm from Louisiana. And right now, we've got 317 volunteers from nine states. We've got medics. We've got, you know, military. They all want to join up with us. And we probably got another 500 people that are on their way down here. And I would probably - we're just having a meeting to give them a rendezvous point.

SIMON: Yeah.

TERRELL: So we'll have close to a thousand volunteers by the end of the day down here.

SIMON: Mr. Terrell, what moves a guy like you to leave your safe and dry homes and come out and help strangers?

TERRELL: Well, you know, from being from Louisiana and being around the water and storms and all that all of our life, you know, and also having come through Hurricane Katrina and losing stuff, you know, a personal loss myself, you know, when you have something, you need to reach out to your neighbor and help them. And that's what it is. The people - they don't have boats that we have. And we have them, so we just got to help our neighbor. And that's what it's all about. And sometimes I think this is God's way of bringing the country back together, you know, disasters because people come together.

SIMON: Well, bless you. And you've got all this invaluable experience you can bring to people.

TERRELL: Yes, sir. And we don't just do boat rescues. We do catering, you know, we do supplies, we counsel people. So we're the real deal. We're the whole operation when it comes to a disaster.

SIMON: Yeah. When you rescue people, do you have enough places to bring them? What kind of resources could you use down there?

TERRELL: Well, that's another story in itself. Not every time do we have a place to bring them. You got to understand, a lot of times when we come into an area, the local resources are stretched so thin we bring people - yesterday, like in New Bern, we were rescuing 3 o'clock in the morning. We were bringing people to a safe drop-off point, but from that, we got to find a place for them to go from there. So then we have to reach out to the Red Cross or the local charities or the government and try to figure out where they're bringing them. And sometimes, they don't have a place. Sometimes, it's up to us to figure it out. So to answer your question, each storm, each situation is a little different. And that's what a lot of people don't understand about what we do. It's a lot of pressure on us.

SIMON: Yeah. And based on what you've seen, are the waters receding? Do you think things will - I don't want to say normal, but will things improve anytime soon?

TERRELL: No, sir. From what I'm understanding, Jacksonville and Burgaw, wherever we're going now, the water's coming up real fast over there. So we're going to Jacksonville right now, you know, so I think that they haven't seen the worst yet. So that's what everybody's thinking about. I think the next two, three, four days are going to be the worst.

SIMON: Well, Todd Terrell, good luck on your efforts. And thank you and all of your mates for putting it forward. Todd Terrell, who's with the Cajun Navy, thanks for joining us.

TERRELL: Yes, sir. Thank you for having us.

SIMON: And we're following the latest developments of the storm throughout our program today. You can stay with us here and online at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.