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Pics: Son swims 1/2 mile to save disabled mom trapped in Hurricane Ian

Hurricane Michael as it heads for the Florida Panhandle as a Category 2 storm on Oct. 9, 2018. (NASA Worldview/Released)
October 05, 2022

A man swam half a mile to save his disabled mother who was trapped in deep, murky flood waters in her home as Hurricane Ian battered Florida last week, photos of the rescue show.

According to The Associated Press, Karen Lauder, 86, called her son, Johnny Lauder, for help as Hurricane Ian raged around her Naples, Florida home. Karen Lauder had become trapped when more than 3 feet of water surrounded – and began fill up – her house.

WSAV Chief Meteorologist Kris Allred shared photos of the rescue on Facebook.

“She said the water was up to her wheelchair and hitting her belly button,” said Johnny Lauder, who had taken shelter at his son’s house a half-mile from his mother’s home.

Karen Lauder had refused to evacuate before the storm, which forced her family to stay, as well, “because we couldn’t leave her behind,” Johnny Lauder said.

Johnny Lauder said he swam, walked and waded through the storm and flood water for nearly an hour before he arrived at his mother’s house. He sent a series of videos and photos to his family to let them know he was safe.

“That’s how I unintentionally documented the whole ordeal,” he said.

When he arrived at her home, Lauder said he could hear his mother screaming.

“It was a sense of terror and relief at the same time,” he said. “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.”

One photo shows Karen Lauder in dark, murky water that was up to her neck. Johnny Lauder quickly put his mother on a table and wrapped her in dry sheets. The pair waited three hours for the storm to subside before making their way to safety.

The rescue took roughly 11 hours, the AP reported.

Lauder’s sister-in-law Cassandra Clark started a fundraiser to help Lauder and his family.

“I get choked up that all these people are helping me and they don’t even know me,” Lauder said, adding, “My mom has changed her tone: she will be evacuating next time. I hope people learn from others’ mistakes and not their own.”

Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida Wednesday afternoon last week, threatening The Sunshine State with heavy rainfall and “catastrophic wind damage.” Videos from the area show numerous homes and vehicles submerged in floodwaters, a shark stranded in flooded city streets, and swimmers attempting to take on the violent storm.