Hurricane Ian: Naples man swam through rising floodwaters to rescue 84-year-old mother

NAPLES, Fla. — Call him a mama’s boy if you like, but Johnny Lauder had no intentions of leaving his 84-year-old mother to fend for herself as Hurricane Ian’s punishing storm surge flooded their shared neighborhood in Naples, Florida.

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Lauder told WTSP that his home quickly began taking on water after the near Category 5 storm made landfall Wednesday, pummeling portions of the Florida peninsula with historic rain and wind.

When he was finally able to reach his mother by phone, Lauder learned that she was also hunkered down in her home in chest-deep water. He quickly realized that waiting out the storm was no longer an option and swam the half-mile to his mother’s house for an impromptu extraction.

“There was a van at the end of the street that floated past me,” Lauder, 49, told WTSP, adding, “I have been in rough water before, and this was like a large body of water moving.”

Lauder later told The Washington Post that Ian’s unprecedented storm surge swamped houses, knocked down power lines and “left the downtown [Naples] area looking like Atlantis.”

According to the newspaper, Lauder’s mother, Karen, is confined to a wheelchair after having had both legs amputated, but her son, a former Chicago police officer and rescue diver, was not deterred.

“If I would’ve waited, she wouldn’t be here, and that’s my mom,” Lauder told the Post, adding, “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.”