As the flood from Hurricane Jan flooded Naples Floridain a storm surge of at least six feet, a man was taken off on a wakeboard to paddle across town and rescue his elderly, disabled mother from water that was almost up to her face.

Johnny Loder, a former police officer and trained rescue diver, and his mother didn’t evacuate until the Category 5 disaster swept through Florida.

“My mother is 84 years old, she is in a wheelchair, her legs are amputated. She’s only got one leg and she’s stubborn, it would be easy to say,” Mr Lauder told the Weather Channel on Tuesday. “She refused to leave. She said she would fight me kicking or screaming. She wasn’t going to leave the house.”

After waiting out the storm at his son’s home, Mr. Lauder watched as about three feet of water pooled around the home’s doors and windows.

Naples, Florida resident Johnny Loder rescues his mother during Hurricane Jan

(Johnny Lauder/Weather Channel)

He knew that officials advised against swimming in stormwater, given the risk of sudden water changes, contamination and other dangers, but he was willing to take the risk to save his mother.

“So I knew the danger, but you don’t think about it at the time and I just went ahead,” he added in an interview with Weather. “You’ve got your head on a swivel, you’re looking for trash, you’re looking for power lines … You’re just not thinking, you’re thinking.”

Family members checked on the phone and he decided to take short videos of himself during the rescue to tell them he was okay.

As he tiptoed across flooded Naples, Mr. Lauder watched cars go by, and among the wreckage he spotted the wakeboard he had been using to swim to his mother’s house.

Johnny Loder carries his disabled mother through floodwaters after Hurricane Ian hit Naples, Florida

(Johnny Lauder/Weather Channel)

There he found her panicked but alive. After wrapping her in dry sheets to prevent hypothermia and waiting for the waters to recede, he and one of his sons brought her and another elderly neighbor to safety. He estimated that if he had arrived 20 minutes later, his mother might have drowned.

The former officer says experience has taught him to heed official warnings to evacuate.

“I hope if anyone learns from this that there is still hope for humanity. But listen to Mother Nature’s warnings … We’ve had time to get out … learn from other people’s mistakes,” Mr. Loder said. “The next time there’s an evacuation, we’ll leave.”

Mr. Lauder’s experience with his mother was unfortunately common. The poor and elderly are most vulnerable during natural disasters, and other residents of Naples described similar rescues.

The town was near where Hurricane Ian first made landfall on the Florida mainland.

“(I) even had a rescue mission to pull an elderly disabled man through a window, otherwise I feel like he would have died,” Nick Rapp, an artist who lives near the water, told Naples Daily News on Wednesday.

“If I hadn’t strapped on my paddle board in case of emergencies… if I had never jumped out to help people and make sure they were safe to cross, welcome them to our place… and learn about this person in traps in place … who knows what his fate would have been,” he added.

Another resident, Lacey Swander, told the newspaper that she would not return to Florida.

“We’re leaving,” the 24-year-old said. “Seeing everything destroyed is not normal. I can’t see anymore.”

A week has passed since a powerful hurricane hit the United States. At least The confirmed death of 109 people, with nearly half of the victims in Lee County, Florida, home to Fort Myers Beach, north of Naples. About 400,000 remain without electricity.

“When you walk around the ruins, it’s an apocalyptic scene,” Fort Myers Beach City Councilman Bill Veach said CNN on Tuesday. “You see a friend you weren’t sure was alive or dead, and it brings you joy. A joy that is far greater than the loss of possessions.’

According to the Florida government, more than 1,000 search and rescue personnel, who checked about 79,000 structures, rescued more than 2,300 trapped residents.

President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden visited the Gulf Coast on Wednesday with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

While touring Fort Myer, the president said the hurricane, as well as wildfires in the West and drought on the Colorado River emphasized the urgency of the climate crisis.

“There’s a lot going on, and I think the one thing that’s finally ended is the debate about whether there’s climate change and we have to do something about it,” Mr. Biden said.