Last week, a guy in Florida swam half a mile through flooded streets to rescue his wheelchair-bound mother who had been stranded in her house while it was filling with water.
After getting a terrified phone from Karen, 84, who lives a few streets away, Johnny Lauder, 49, bravely rushed into the bacteria-filled water flooding through Naples as Hurricane Ian made landfall on Wednesday.
Karen, whose legs had been amputated on both sides, informed him that the water was flowing into her house and had reached her chest level.
The Category 4 hurricane was expected to impact Tampa Bay, according to the first projections. But on Tuesday afternoon, it took a southerly course. It had grown into one of the strongest storms to strike the United States in decades by the following day.
Since then, it has left a trail of devastation stretching from Florida to the Carolinas.
On Sunday, the death toll passed 80, and the struggling citizens of the two states now face a recovery that will probably cost tens of billions of dollars.
In Florida, there were still around 700,000 homes and businesses without power as of late Sunday, down from a record of 2.6 million.
Lauder, who lives in East Naples with his family, told the local news station NBC-2 that his mother Karen did not want to leave her house because of the storm, despite the risk. The whole family thus made the decision to remain.
Lauder told the broadcaster that as the floods rose, he locked his three kids and three dogs in the attic crawl space of their house before making his escape via a window to rescue his mother.
He told NBC-2, “At that time, I knew things were going to be horrible since the water began rising even higher.” I jumped out of the window at that moment since my mother had phoned to report that the water was up to her chest.
To get to his mother’s home, which was located approximately half a mile from his family’s home, he had to swim through the five-foot storm surge.
If you can call it that, it was a really difficult swim for Lauder, who added, “I knew the water was coming up quicker and faster.” “Who wouldn’t choose their mother?” ‘
Lauder said in an interview with the Washington Post that if he had waited any longer, “she wouldn’t be here.” And that’s my mum, he continued. In that circumstance, I would have done it for anybody’s mother or anyone else. That’s what you’re meant to do, you know.
Lauder told The Post that the 84-year-old lady was “extremely obstinate.” “You’re not bringing me anyplace. I won’t have any privacy. I’m staying at home,” she said.
Karen admitted to underestimating the storm to NBC-2. Although I could have done so, I didn’t believe it would be that horrible.
During his quest to rescue his mother, Lauder snapped a number of pictures documenting the storm’s impact on Naples. Power lines were bent, cars were carried away, and debris from nearby homes washed ashore.
When he got to his mother’s residence, which he described as being “like an aquarium,” he snapped a photo of her immersed in the water. Despite her dire circumstances, Karen is shown grinning when she sees her kid.
Lauder told The Post, “She was the happiest she’s ever been to see me.”
Since then, his family members have created a GoFundMe campaign to assist gather money for renovations. The fundraising campaign reached approximately $4,000 by Monday morning.
Hurricane Ian was still causing damage as of Monday.
Authorities warned of the possibility of major flooding along Virginia’s coast starting overnight Monday after the storm drenched the state with rain on Sunday.
According to Cody Poche of the National Weather Service, Ian’s remnants moved offshore and formed a nor’easter, which is expected to dump even more water into the already overflowed Chesapeake Bay and threaten to bring about the most significant tidal flooding event in Virginia’s Hampton Roads region in the past 10 to 15 years.
Chincoteague, an island community, issued a state of emergency on Sunday and urged inhabitants in certain sections to leave. The Northern Outer Banks of North Carolina and the Eastern Shore were also anticipated to be affected.
Deanne Criswell, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said that as the death toll increased, the federal government was prepared to provide massive assistance, concentrating first on those in Florida who were most hit by one of the greatest hurricanes to hit the United States.
The state will be visited by President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden on Wednesday.
Many individuals were isolated due to flooded roads, washed-out bridges to barrier islands, poor cellphone reception, and a lack of essential services like internet, power, and water. The rain that dropped had nowhere to go since the canals are overflowing, so officials issued a warning that the situation in many locations is not anticipated to improve for many days.
The Coast Guard and Department of Defense, among other federal agencies, have sent “the highest number of search and rescue assets that I believe we’ve ever put in place,” according to Criswell on “Fox News Sunday.”
Criswell, who visited the state on Friday and Saturday to see the damage and speak with survivors, warned that rehabilitation will still take time. She issued a warning that there were still risks due to fallen power wires in standing water.
Since Ian made landfall on Florida’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 150 miles per hour, at least 85 storm-related fatalities have been officially reported.
All but four of the fatalities occurred in Florida, with 39 more deaths recorded by authorities in four surrounding counties. The sheriff’s office in coastal Lee County, which took the brunt of the storm’s impact when it made landfall, reported 42 dead.
Officials in Lee County, which is on the Gulf Coast and includes Fort Myers and Cape Coral, have been questioned about whether they ordered evacuations in time.
Orders to evacuate were given once it was predicted that the county would be in the cone, or the likely track, of the hurricane’s center, according to Cecil Pendergrass, chairman of the county’s board of commissioners, on Sunday. According to Pendergrass, some people still made the decision to wait out the storm.
At a news conference, he said, “I accept their decisions.” However, I’m certain that many of them regret it today.
According to Florida’s emergency management organization, more than 1,600 individuals had been saved statewide.
Rescue operations were still being carried out, particularly on Florida’s barrier islands, which were shut off from the mainland after storm surges wrecked causeways and bridges.
DeSantis stated on Sunday that the state would construct a temporary traffic bridge for the largest one, Pine Island, and that funding had been approved for the Department of Transportation to build it this week. As a result, work could begin as early as Monday.
At a press conference, the governor said: “It won’t be a complete bridge; you’ll have to drive over it maybe at 5 mph or something, but it’ll at least enable people to go in and out of the island with their automobiles.”
Over the last several days, workers from the Coast Guard, local governments, and private companies have used jetskis, boats, and even helicopters to rescue residents.
Residents in rural Seminole County, which is located north of Orlando, put on waders, boots, and bug spray on Sunday in order to paddle to their flooded houses.
After kayaking around Lake Harney, Ben Bertat discovered 4 inches of water inside his home.
Bertat added, pointing to the water saturating a neighboring road, “I fear it’s going to become worse because all of this water needs to go to the lake.”
“This marsh can’t absorb any more water; the earth is saturated to the brim.” It doesn’t seem to be dropping any more.
Officials said that some of the worst damage was caused by wind-driven ocean surges that rushed into beachside villages and swept down structures as the extent of the destruction became more apparent.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released satellite photographs that revealed storm surges had completely destroyed beach homes and a hotel that lined the coasts of Florida’s Sanibel Island. Even while the majority of houses looked to still be intact, all of them had obvious roof damage.
Ground surveys revealed that the barrier island, a well-liked tourist destination that was home to some 6,000 people, was completely destroyed.
The whole thing is basically gone, said Dana Souza, the municipal manager of Sanibel. “Our public water supply is under evaluation,” the statement reads. “Our sewage infrastructure has been severely damaged.”
The causeway bridge’s breaches disconnected the island’s connection to the mainland, straining recovery operations even more, according to Souza.
Ian regained hurricane status and battered coastal South Carolina on Friday, smashing ashore near Georgetown, north of the historic port city of Charleston, after fading to a tropical storm by the conclusion of its march from Florida to the Atlantic.
A number of piers were destroyed there, and several roads were inundated and obstructed by falling trees.
In Florida alone, where more than 2 million people lost energy the first night of the hurricane, more than 700,000 businesses and households were still without electricity as of Sunday afternoon.
According to U.S. property data and analytics firm CoreLogic, insurers were preparing for between $28 billion and $47 billion in claims from what might end up being the biggest Florida disaster since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
A beach town located about 75 miles up the coast from Charleston in South Carolina, Pawleys Island, still has at least half of its electricity down. The hurricane brought down trees and electrical wires in North Carolina.
Additionally, two weeks after Hurricane Fiona made landfall, tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans are still without power. On Monday, Biden will assess the damage caused by the hurricane there. The Category 1 storm cut out electricity to the 3.2 million residents of the U.S. territory, 44% of whom are living in poverty.
90% of the island’s 1.47 million customers now have access to electricity, but more than 137,000 people still live in darkness, particularly in the most severely affected parts of Puerto Rico’s south and west. There are still 66,000 clients without water.
Five years after the stronger Hurricane Maria destroyed the island, Biden has promised that the United States government would not forsake Puerto Rico as it begins to recover.
In order to help Puerto Rico prepare for future storms, the island will receive $60 million through last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law, according to the White House, which Biden planned to announce during his visit. This money will be used to shore up levees, strengthen flood walls, and develop a new flood warning system.
In a statement posted on his official Twitter account on Sunday, Biden informed residents of Florida and Puerto Rico, “We see what you’re going through, and we’re with you.”
The president was scheduled to land on Monday in Ponce, Puerto Rico, a city on the island’s southern coast, along with the first wife Jill Biden and the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Deanne Criswell. In southern Puerto Rico, the storm’s destruction is most evident.
Governor Pedro Pierluisi of Puerto Rico promised to provide Biden an update on the recovery process.
The governor tweeted on Sunday, “We will make sure to keep working together to maintain the continuation of a rebuilding that is already begun.”
When Fiona reached Puerto Rico on September 18, it released more than 100 landslides, destroyed more than 100 bridges, and caused devastating floods. At least two individuals perished in floods, while several more perished in mishaps involving the use of candles or generators as the island-wide power outage persisted.
Government authorities have assessed losses at around $3 billion, but they have issued a warning that costs may increase dramatically when more assessments are made.
When Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in 2017 as a more severe Category 4 hurricane, President Donald Trump visited the island and angered many by tossing rolls of paper towels into the throng. Some residents in Puerto Rico questioned if Biden’s visit would make a difference.
In the wake of Hurricane Fiona, which shut off his area from assistance for a week, Manuel Veguilla, a 63-year-old retired mechanic who lives in a rural village in the hard-hit northern mountain town of Caguas, said he didn’t expect his life to get any better.
He remarked of Biden’s visit, “They usually give the lollipop to the kids.” But the result is always the same in the end. The wealthiest people get help.
Criswell reiterated Biden’s pledge to Fiona’s victims when she spoke about the aftermath of Fiona and Ian on four Sunday TV news shows.
She said on “Face the Nation” on CBS, “We have not deserted Puerto Rico.”
On ABC’s “This Week,” Criswell said that FEMA staff had been sent to the island ahead of the hurricane and would remain there throughout the recovery process.
Recently, Biden informed Pierluisi that he had approved 100% government assistance for a month to go toward clearing debris, conducting rescue operations, restoring electricity and water, providing shelter, and providing food.
Businesses, including as petrol stations and grocery shops, had to temporarily close due to the island’s lack of electricity as fuel supplies were running low due to extensive generator usage.
Since a British Petroleum ship needed to transport 300,000 barrels of fuel, the Biden administration’s move to temporarily suspend a federal law was applauded by many.
Many have also started calling for Puerto Rico to be completely exempted from the Jones Act, which mandates that any commodities delivered to Puerto Rico must be on board a ship that was constructed in the United States, is owned and crewed by Americans, and flies the American flag. For an island that currently imports 85% of its food, this raises expenses.
Puerto Ricans won’t be forgotten, according to Republican senator Marco Rubio of Florida.
Due to the prepositioning of people and supplies before the storm’s arrival and the partial reconstruction of Puerto Rico’s electrical infrastructure during Hurricane Maria, according to Rubio, the island seems to be “in a better position to react this time around.”
On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Rubio said, “We will do all we can, like we always have, to help Puerto Rico now in the recovery following this, yet another horrific hurricane.”