Friends brave tornado rescuing people from flooded homes
In the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, a tornado ripped through a North Carolina neighborhood as a team of rescuers, among them Cody Monk of St. Rose, braced themselves for impact.
It was a harrowing reminder that saving the lives of others meant putting their own on the line, and though the tornado wasn’t remotely the only instance of danger encountered, Monk and the his fellow volunteers with the United Cajun Navy weren’t about to turn back.
“We probably had 10 guys out in boats (when the tornado came), out in the middle of the neighborhood, and there was debris everywhere, stuff flying all over the place,” Monk said. “It was nuts.”
Monk estimated he and his fellow volunteers were able to pull and rescue around 500 people from their homes, where they were trapped because of heavy flooding caused from the storm.
“When this Florence thing popped off, a bunch of us guys got together. Just a bunch of average Joes with boats,” Monk said. “We kinda rounded it up and showed up out there to do what we can do.”
Once water rescues stopped, the focus shifted to supplying distribution points with necessities such as ice and water, as well as providing meals.
Monk has teamed with a friend, Eric Jones of Big Face Smokehouse – a mobile cooking trailer based out of St. Rose – who has utilized the 28-foot transport to feed those in need.
Both are still in North Carolina making a difference.
“I was always brought up to believe if you can help somebody out, you help ‘em.” – Cody Monk
“We’ve probably pushed out over 20,000 meals,” Monk said. “We were cooking, feeding, doing what we do. We linked up with World’s Kitchen, an organization doing a lot of the cooking as well. For the places that are landlocked that we couldn’t access by roads, we brought food and water necessities by boat … did a couple of helicopter drops. We’ve been able to do a lot.”
There’s been little time for rest.
“It’s been non-stop … we’re cooking, loading up food in the boats, in the truck, loading up 18 wheelers with supplies and day-to-day necessities. You name it,” Monk said.
He said most of those rescued are very relieved, but that there are also those who wanted to ride things out in their homes if they weren’t flooded and only without power.
“But the majority are happy to have a chance to get out and start getting some of their sanity back,” Monk said.
This isn’t Monk’s first brush with rescue efforts. He was a former firefighter with the St. Rose Fire Department for 10 years and was an assistant fire chief during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He’s also volunteered his efforts after other floods since then, including in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey as well as floods in Hammond and Baton Rouge.
“(Katrina is) definitely where I gained most of my experience doing things like this,” Monk said.
Lending assistance to others in these tense situations is also something he’s hardwired for: his father and his uncle were both firemen and he followed in their footsteps. His upbringing also instilled a desire to help.
“I was always brought up to believe if you can help somebody out, you help ‘em,” Monk said. “No matter who they are or what they do, you help them. So when all this happened, it’s time to get out there.”
In addition to his physical efforts to rescue and feed, he’s also paid for a portion of the food and supplies out of his own pocket.
He said these efforts are likely to continue for weeks, as many places are still underwater.
“It’s gonna be a long term deal trying to turn this around,” Monk said.