Monday 3 October 2022 04:12 PM Son, 49, swam half a mile through flooded streets to save his wheelchair-bound ... trends now
A man swam half a mile through flooded streets in Florida last week to save his wheelchair-bound mother trapped in her home as it filled with water.
As Hurricane Ian made landfall on Wednesday, Johnny Lauder, 49, heroically dove into the bacteria-ridden water surging through Naples after receiving a panicked call from 84-year-old Karen, who lives a few blocks away.
Karen, whose legs are both amputated, told him the water was rushing into her home and had become level with her chest.
Initial forecasts had predicted the Category 4 storm would hit Tampa Bay. But on Tuesday afternoon, its path changed south. By the following day, it had turned into one of the most powerful hurricanes to hit the United States in decades.
It has since carved a path of destruction from Florida to the Carolinas. The death toll climbed past 80 on Sunday and the embattled residents in the two states face a recovery expected to cost tens of billions of dollars.
By late Sunday, around 700,000 homes and businesses in Florida were still without electricity - down from a peak of 2.6 million.
But despite the danger, Lauder - who lives in East Naples with his family - told local news outlet NBC-2 that his mother Karen did not want to evacuate her home because of the hurricane. As a result, the whole family decided to stay.
Pictured: Johnny Lauder's 84-year-old mother Karen is seen in floodwaters inside her home in Naples, Florida last week after Hurricane Ian made landfall on Wednesday
Lauder (pictured) swam half-a-mile through floodwaters to his mother's home to save her from the floods. His mother, Karen, is wheelchair bound
As the waters rose, Lauder told the broadcaster that he put three of his children inside their home's attic crawl space along with their three pets, and then escaped from a window on a mission to save his mother.
'The water started getting even higher, and at that point, I knew things were going to be bad,' he told NBC-2. 'At that time, I dove out that window because my mom called and said it was up to her chest.'
He swam through the five-foot storm surge to his mother's house, found about half-a-mile away from his family home.
'It was a very rough swim, if you call it that, and I knew the water was coming up faster and faster,' Lauder said. 'Who wouldn't go for their mom?'
Speaking to the Washington Post, Lauder said if he had waited any longer, 'she wouldn't be here'. He added: 'And that's my mom. I would've done it for anybody's mom or anyone else in that situation. You know, that's what you're supposed to do.
'She's a very stubborn 84-year-old woman,' Lauder told The Post. 'And she said, "You're not taking me anywhere. I won't have any privacy. I'm staying home."'
Karen told NBC-2 that she underestimated the storm. 'I could have gone to a shelter, but I didn't think it'd be that bad.'
Lauder took several photographs during his mission to save his mother, showing the devastation wrought by the storm on Naples. Cars were swept away, power lines were crooked, and items from surrounding households were washed up.
When he arrived to his mother's house, he took a picture of her submerged in the water inside her home, which he described as 'like an aquarium'. Despite her desperate situation, Karen is shown beaming upon seeing her son.
'She was the happiest she's ever been to see me,' Lauder told The Post.
His relatives have since set up a GoFundMe page to help raise money towards repairs. By Monday morning, the page had raised almost $4,000.
Pictured: Lauder is seen with his mother inside her home last week during his rescue mission
Pictured: A picture shared by Lauder of his Naples neighborhood during his rescue mission
As of Monday, Hurricane Ian is still not done.
The storm doused Virginia with rain Sunday, and officials warned of the potential for severe flooding along its coast, beginning overnight Monday.
Ian's remnants moved offshore and formed a nor'easter that is expected to pile even more water into an already inundated Chesapeake Bay and threatened to cause the most significant tidal flooding event in Virginia's Hampton Roads region in the last 10 to 15 years, said Cody Poche, a National Weather Service meteorologist.
The island town of Chincoteague declared a state of emergency Sunday and strongly recommended that residents in certain areas evacuate. The Eastern Shore and northern portion of North Carolina's Outer Banks were also likely to be impacted.
With the death toll rising, Deanne Criswell, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said the federal government was ready to help in a huge way, focusing first on victims in Florida, which took the brunt of one of the strongest storms to make landfall in the United States.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden plan to visit the state on Wednesday.
Pictured: Flooded streets are seen in Naples during Hurricane Ian on September 29
A handout satellite image made available by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) shows Hurricane Ian's eye as the storm approached southwest Florida, USA, 28 September 2022
Flooded roadways and washed-out bridges to barrier islands left many people isolated amid limited cellphone service and a lack of basic amenities such as water, electricity and the internet. Officials warned that the situation in many areas isn't expected to improve for several days because the rain that fell has nowhere to go because waterways are overflowing.
Criswell told 'Fox News Sunday' that the federal government, including the Coast Guard and Department of Defense, had moved into position 'the largest amount of search and rescue assets that I think we've ever put in place before.'
Still, recovery will take time, said Criswell, who visited the state Friday and Saturday to assess the damage and talk to survivors. She cautioned that dangers remain with downed power lines in standing water.
At least 85 storm-related deaths have been confirmed since Ian crashed ashore Florida's Gulf Coast with catastrophic force on Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 150 miles per hour.
Florida accounted for all but four of the fatalities, with 42 tallied by the sheriff's office in coastal Lee County, which bore the brunt of the storm when it made landfall, and 39 other deaths reported by officials in four neighboring counties.
Officials in Lee County, which includes Fort Myers and Cape Coral and is on the Gulf Coast, have faced questions over whether they mandated evacuations in time.
Cecil Pendergrass, chairman of the county's board of commissioners, said on Sunday that once the county was forecast to be in the cone, or the probable track of the hurricane's center, evacuation orders were given. Even then, some people chose to ride the storm out, Pendergrass said.
'I respect their choices,' he said at a press conference. 'But I'm sure a lot of them regret it now.'
More than 1,600 people have been rescued statewide, according to Florida's emergency management agency.
Rescue missions were ongoing, especially to Florida's barrier islands, which were cut off from the mainland when storm surges destroyed causeways and bridges.
The state will build a temporary traffic passageway for the largest one, Pine Island, DeSantis said Sunday, adding that an allocation had been approved for Deportment of Transportation to build it this week and construction could start as soon as Monday.
A sign reading, 'Loot and I Shoot', sits ourtside a storm-damaged home in the wake of Hurricane Ian on October 2, 2022 in Naples, Florida
Jane Cihon sorts through family photos damaged by storm surge from Hurricane Ian on October 2, 2022 in Naples, Florida
Ambulances line up