This is just one true story about how several Miracles connected 4 neighbor families to save the lives of 7 people and one family pooch during the middle of Hurricane Ian. There are hundreds of other similar stories of survival, and unfortunately hundreds more where people perished.
Through numerous God assisted Miracles, superhuman efforts, amazing courage, brilliant thinking, personal sacrifices, remarkable generosity, neighbors and first responders taking care of others, extreme strong wills to live, strong faiths in God, all 8 lives were saved.
Hurricane Ian was the perfect storm that caused maximum destruction to Fort Myers, Florida and surrounding areas on September 27 and 28, 2022. Everything that had to go wrong, went wrong.
Hurricane Ian inflicted a double whammy on properties in Fort Myers, that forced people to take extremely drastic actions to just survive, while suffering massive damages to their homes, vehicles, properties and personal belongings. Hurricane Ian pounded the area with winds of over 150 MPH and huge amounts of rain for over 10 hours creating considerable roof leaks and more, but also dumped a SURGE of salty muddy trash filled flood waters topping 12 feet from the Gulf at the same time that few people expected and fewer prepared for. Records show it was one of if not the most disastrous hurricanes in hundreds of years.
Two of the families have lived in their low-lying single-story homes in Fort Myers for over 40 years in an older exclusive neighborhood with lots over an acre and numerous huge Oak trees covering their properties. Both houses received over 5 feet of flood waters from the canal on their properties that is directly connected to the Gulf, the source of the surge flood waters.
John is a 69-year-old man who lived alone with serious back problems requiring a walker and has undergone massive radioactive and chemotherapy treatments for his rare throat cancer. His house sits on a one-acre lot covered with massive trees and bushes. He went to bed at about 10:30 AM relaxed after hearing that Ian was headed to Tampa and took a pain pill for his back and fell sleep.
He awoke in his specialty built high bed at dusk with about 6-10 inches of water covering his body. Grabbing the only things he could reach, his cell phone and cane and clad only in his skivvies with no shoes he stumbled, crawled, swam, tripped and struggled through about 4.5 feet of muddy water inside his house over floating furniture, broken glass, and many unknown objects below his feet in the dark to find safety. Yet, he was blocked by overturned furniture, and refrigerator at the exit doors. Somehow, he clambered over, through and around everything to reach his garage to get into his Tundra Truck for safety. But the garage door was closed, and he realized he HAD to open it otherwise he would be entombed there.
So, he spent about 50 minutes with breaks to regain his strength, slowly moving the door up through the water about 1 foot at a time propping it up each time with pieces of wood until it cleared the water, where he propped it up with a longer 7-foot board. Then he climbed into his truck to sit in about 8-10 inches of water in the dark. He knew he HAD to yell for help, but who would hear him during the very loud windy hurricane? So, he listened for sounds of people. It was a Miracle that he did hear sounds of people and yelled out. But he had no way of knowing if he was heard. Many times, through the over 10 hours of this miserable ordeal he thought he was a goner, but through his will to live and faith in GOD he refused to quit until help arrived at some unknown time. Several Miracles occurred just in the nick of time to rescue him.
At the same time about 280 feet away from John in another older low-lying house 3 lots away situated deep in a huge lot of over 2.5 acres sheltered by large trees were Grandmother Susan age 90 who was very much an invalid, more so than John, her grandsons, Spencer and Zachariah ages 33 and 31, Spencer’s daughter, Athena, who turned 6 on the day of the Hurricane, his 9-month-old daughter, Nova, Spencer’s girlfriend Brittany, and their 9 pound family Shorkie puppy named Daisy. They too received the brunt of over 5 feet of high waters. The waters overwhelmed them, such that they knew they would drown unless they did something drastic. There was no place safe on their property. And the winds were too powerful to stay outside. Their vehicles were too low, and they couldn’t count on being safe by trying to get everyone into the garage attic.
They knew the house across the street was built up on a much higher foundation, and they decided to go check it out and ask their neighbor for a safe and dry place to escape.
So, Zachariah climbed, swam and struggled over and through about 112 feet of over 3 feet of infested dirty waters filled with hidden unknown obstacles while being pummeled by tree limbs, and leaves, huge palm fronds, heavy rains and other unknown objects from the very loud hurricane winds with gusts measuring from 130-150 mph to the house across the street. He found no one home. He struggled back through the same 112 feet of flowing waters and debris filled winds to his house to report in.
Then Zachariah and Spencer trekked back over with a crowbar and Athena on Spencer’s shoulders. By now the waters had risen to over 4 feet. Spencer is only 5 feet 5 inches tall and he has a bad back with 7 herniated discs, 4 needing to be replaced taking a super human effort to make the trip. During this trek they heard a loud Crack and saw “3 massive trees” begin to fall right on them. But another Miracle occurred saving their lives where several smaller oak trees blocked all 3 falling trees from hitting them. This scared them to death, especially Athena. Spencer kept telling Athena to keep looking forward, we will make it. All Athena could say was OK, OK. One misstep into the waters would have been disastrous for all three of them.
They safely reached the front door of the house. They broke in and found dry safety for Athena and hopefully the rest his family if they could find a way to transport them through the rainy debris filled wind and rising waters to this safe house. Spencer called his neighbor Larry, to tell him he broke in and Larry was very gracious and generous encouraging Spencer and his entire family to use everything in the house they wanted for their safety and survival. Access to this house across the street turned out to be a huge Miracle.
Spencer struggled back to get Nova and Brittany, while Zachariah stayed in the safe house with Athena.
Upon being faced with the problem of transporting Nova, the baby, to safety he chose a method right out of the Bible that was ingenious and worked. He carefully placed Nova in a Yeti cooler with the top on to protect her from the flying debris and rain but checked on her 4 times to allow her to breath. Nova was laughing and giggling the whole time thinking they were playing the Peak a Boo game. But by this time the waters had risen to over 5 feet and had a powerful currant driving them away from safety. Miraculously, Spencer, and Brittany partially bobbed up and down and partially swam while floating Nova in the cooler and Brittany carrying the baby bag to reach the safety of the neighbor’s house.
Then Spencer bobbed and swam back to get Susan and Daisy. Upon arriving Susan asked, “where’s the baby” and he said she was safe and OK.
Being faced with transporting Grandmother Susan through the over 5 feet of dangerous waters with debris filled windy rain to safety, he made another brilliant choice. He placed Susan on a floating queen sized mattress that had been Miraculously stored dry in the garage attic that Susan had repeatedly told him to get rid of it, covered her with something for protection from the windy rain and debris, added Daisy in a carry container and a small box of supplies and floated the entire entourage over through and around even more water and trees, all the while Susan was screaming: “Let me die save yourselves.” I knew Susan and she was quite a character, and this sounds exactly like Susan. And he yelled back; “Be quiet Grandma, we are all going to live.”
Miraculously, John heard their screaming over all the noise of the wind and rains and the approximately 280-foot distance and yelled “Help, Help” hoping he would be heard. By another Miracle, they did hear him. But he did not know it. Spencer didn’t respond because he couldn’t determine where the sounds were coming from, because they were busy saving their family, and the waters and currents were too treacherous to wade through in unknown directions. It broke Spencer’s heart that he couldn’t help whomever it was he heard.
The whole nightmare took over 3 hours and was exhausting. They crashed at some point deep into the night. But the lives of 6 people and one lucky dog had been saved, and unbeknownst to them, with one more to come.
They had also called the emergency number and reached the Iona Fire Department to seek help to rescue Susan. But the Fire Department could not get through right away because of the high waters and the massive number of downed trees in the 1,200-foot entrance road and approximately 2,450 feet of cluttered roads to their house.
At daybreak, after the water had receded to several feet, and the winds had died down, they sought the source of the “Help” screams by walking in the water yelling “Is anybody there?” John heard them and yelled “Help” again. After clambering over considerable downed trees, they found him in his truck in the garage close to death. He was delirious and unable to move. Hyperthermia had hit John. He had already passed through the shivering stage and had been so numb for hours he no longer felt the pain in his back.
By this time the Fire Department had miraculously arrived to save Susan. They had already rescued another elderly lady. Spencer redirected them to John who really needed help. It took some time and effort for the Fire Department first responders to extract John and carry him to the street, which still had about 2 feet of water. They placed him in a Kayak donated by another neighbor, Mark and shoveled him to their fire truck down the street. The Firemen took over, revived John and took him to safety.
God provided numerous Miracles during the middle of the intense destruction of Hurricane Ian. If it had not been for the proximity of the safety of neighbor’s house, the next closest higher level safe house was over 386 feet away the odds were terrible that everyone would have survived. One Miracle. And if it had not been for the lower oak trees blocking the 3 falling larger trees, Spencer and Athena would have been crushed. Another Miracle. And if it had not been for Susan screaming “Let me die save yourselves” John would not have heard them, and they would not have heard John. Another 2 Miracles. There were no others out in the hurricane at that time to hear or save John and he would have certainly perished in place. And if it had not been for the trained Firemen arriving at the exact right time to immediately revive John and take him to safety, he would not have made it. Another Miracle. Unfortunately, Susan passed away 2 weeks later. Yet she saved John’s life before she passed.
Thank you, Susan Mumme!