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 outlets that his mother Karen did not want to evacuate her home because of the hurricane. As a result, the whole family decided to stay.

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 explained. ‘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 reporters 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.

Original Article