After Hurricane Ian slammed into Florida’s west coast, a Naples man trekked through nearly half a mile of floodwater to save his 85-year-old mother.
Johnny Lauder, a former police officer, told CNN he sprang into action after his mother, who uses a wheelchair, called in a panic and said water was rushing into her home and reaching her chest.
“I just wanted to get there,” Lauder said. “I knew time was of the essence. She was running out of time. And you’ve just got to stay focused and dig and dig and dig.”
Lauder shared video of his harrowing journey through streets that had turned into rivers to get to his mother.
He arrived at her home to find her neck-deep in floodwater, but happy to see her son.
“The water was up to the windows, and I heard her screaming inside,” Lauder said. “It was a scare and a sigh of relief at the time – a scare thinking she might be hurt, a sigh of relief knowing that there was still air in her lungs.”
His mother’s home was filled with so much water, furniture and other items were floating around her, video shared by Lauder shows.
Lauder said he knew his mother had been in the water for some time and was shaking from the cold. “I know from my training what the onset of hypothermia looks like, and I wasn’t gonna let that happen,” he said.
He propped her up on a table and tried to keep her warm.
“I found the only thing dry in her whole house was a sheet set on the very top shelf,” Lauder told CNN. “I grabbed the sheets, and the first thing she said was, ‘Not my good sheets. Don’t get those wet.’”
As the water began to recede, Lauder’s son who lives nearby also rushed to his grandmother’s aid, and father and son worked to get her to dry land. They pushed her wheelchair through the water to safety.
His mother is now in the hospital being treated for a bacterial infection but overall, she is doing well, he said. “She’s warm, she’s safe – that’s all that matters,” Lauder said.
Hurricane Ian made landfall last Wednesday as a furious Category 4 hurricane, pummeling Florida with record-high storm surge, damaging winds, catastrophic flooding and trapping residents in their homes. Since then, rescue crews around the state have performed hundreds of rescues and continue to search for survivors.