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Man Swims Half a Mile to Save His Mom From Flooded Home During Hurricane Ian

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When Hurricane Ian hit his community in Naples, Florida, Johnny Lauder was determined to save his mom — come hell or high water.

Last week, as water levels from the hurricane began to rise around his home, Lauder made his way through 105 mph wind and rain to rescue his 84-year-old mother. Despite days of warnings and calls to evacuate, Lauder’s mother refused to leave her home.

“Because she’s in a wheelchair, she only has one leg, sores all over, she can’t really get around too much. But she didn’t want — she refused to go to a shelter,” Lauder told Associated Press in a video interview. “She said she’d kick and scream and fight the whole way. And because of our experiences in the last hurricane, when Irma came through we got about 6 inches of water in her house and about a foot in mine. But it was nothing. So she thought it was going to be like the last time.”

Ian, a Category 4 hurricane, proved to be the opposite. Within hours rain floods eventually took over his mother’s home, prompting her to call Lauder, who was sheltering at his son’s home nearby.

“She said the water was up to her wheelchair and hitting her belly button,” Lauder explained.

Lauder, a former police officer and trained rescue diver, said he trudged and swam his way through a half-mile of flood water to get to his mother’s home.

He said he started taking short videos and photos to let his family know he was OK, which is how he “unintentionally documented” the whole ordeal.

When he got there, he heard his mother’s voice first. She was screaming.

“It was a sense of terror and relief at the same time,” he explained. “The terror was that I didn’t know if something was falling on her or if she was trapped and hurt. But the relief was knowing that there’s still air in her lungs.”

A photo of Lauder’s mother captures the moment he found her. The image shows her floating, shoulder-deep, in water in the middle of what appears to be her kitchen.

After helping his mother onto a table above the water and bundling her up in sheets, the two waited out the storm for three hours for water levels to ease. Then, they set out on the next part of their journey, making their way through the flood, another half-mile back to Lauder’s son’s house.

“We got her out of the house through all the wreckage, and we started pushing her in the street. You know the water for us was probably thigh, hip deep. But for her, in some areas, it was already up to her chest. She was still submerged through the whole ride. Very difficult walk.”

Lauder’s mom was later taken to the hospital to treat infections that had affected her sores.

“They were treated, and she’s warm,” Lauder noted to the AP. “She’s in a soft, comfy bed. She’s good.”

If there’s one thing Lauder would have those watching take away from his, and his mother’s story is to heed Mother Nature and her warnings.

“My mom has changed her tone: she will be evacuating next time,” he added. “I hope people learn from others’ mistakes and not their own.”

This article was originally published on TODAY.com


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