Mom Saved Baby's Life In Plastic Storage Bin During Hurricane Ian

A Florida mom saved her baby's life by placing him in a plastic bin and floating him down her flooded street.

"I went into survival mode," Callie Brown, 36, told TODAY Parents when recalling the hours-long ordeal amid Hurricane Ian.

The Category 4 storm with winds up to 150 mph cut power for more than 2.3 million people and killed more than 100. In Florida, Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson called the storm "by far the worst" he has witnessed. President Joe Biden has provided federal emergency aid for states affected by the hurricane.

Many Florida families, like Brown's, were left homeless in the wreckage.

When the eye of the storm was predicted to hit Tampa, Brown and her husband, Chad Duckwall, felt reassured by their distance, living two hours away in Fort Myers.

Callie Brown and Chad Duckwall saved their baby Charlie's life during Hurricane Ian.  (Courtesy Callie Brown)
Callie Brown and Chad Duckwall saved their baby Charlie's life during Hurricane Ian. (Courtesy Callie Brown)

Related: ‘Mommy, don’t let me die’: Florida family recounts escaping home during Hurricane Ian

On Sept. 28, as rain pounded down and the wind howled, Brown watched a palm tree lean dangerously close to her home.

As the couple, their 3-month-old son Charlie and their cat Tucker moved to the other side of the house, the tree crashed onto the roof. "It was super loud," she said.

Half an hour later, the wind ripped their backyard lanai off its foundation, carrying it over their home and into a neighbor's front lawn across the street.

"I'm pacing with Charlie in my arms and thinking, 'OK, OK, we'll get through this,'" Brown recalled. "I didn't have much time to process because five minutes later, the water started seeping inside the house."

It was too late to safely evacuate in their car. "Within 20 minutes, the water rose to 5 feet," said Brown, adding, “I am 5-foot-4."

A flooded Fort Myers street amid Hurricane Ian. (Courtesy Callie Brown)
A flooded Fort Myers street amid Hurricane Ian. (Courtesy Callie Brown)

Brown grabbed her son's car seat from the couch and buckled him in, then secured Tucker the cat into a backpack cat carrier. Pushing through water, she made it to the garage and pulled down a ladder leading to the attic. Duckwall stayed downstairs to salvage their baby album, Charlie's formula and diapers and important documents.

Somehow, Charlie stayed asleep. "The wind was so loud it was like a white noise machine," explained Brown.

As the water rose to Duckwall's neck, Brown's phone rang.

"It was a friend saying to get to the house for sale on the corner of our road because it sits on higher ground," she said.

Brown grabbed two plastic bins that stored Halloween and Christmas decorations.

"I dumped them out and placed Charlie inside," she said. "His car seat fit perfectly." Brown then put Tucker in a diaper bag and fit him inside the second bin.

Related: Woman desperately searched for mom in Fort Myers after seeing her home almost submerged by Hurricane Ian

Callie Brown and Chad Duckwall's cat Tucker needed to be rescued during Hurricane Ian. (Courtesy Callie Brown)
Callie Brown and Chad Duckwall's cat Tucker needed to be rescued during Hurricane Ian. (Courtesy Callie Brown)

The mom lowered Tucker to Duckwall and got herself and Charlie downstairs. The couple linked their arms through the handles of a cooler bag so they wouldn't drift apart.

"It was so loud and Chad was yelling directions — I was petrified," said Brown. "I kept saying, 'Get Charlie to safety, don't let the bin flip over.'"

The couple swam out their front door, trying to pivot left — but the current pulled them right. "We saw our neighbors sitting in kayaks and clinging to their home," she recalled.

The storm slammed the family into an RV parked on the side of a home, where a two-level lanai was located. The first level was under water, but the second level sat at least two inches above the waterline.

Duckwall punched a hole in the screen and the couple swam inside, Brown briefly holding her breath under water while lifting Charlie above her head.

Hurricane Ian destroyed the home of Florida couple Callie Brown and Chad Duckwall. Their baby's nursery is pictured here. (Courtesy Callie Brown)
Hurricane Ian destroyed the home of Florida couple Callie Brown and Chad Duckwall. Their baby's nursery is pictured here. (Courtesy Callie Brown)

"Charlie wasn't screaming," noted Brown. "He was looking around, content as can be, probably thinking he was at a water park."

The family encountered the homeowners inside, a couple and their 9-year-old twins who moved in two months ago

"They said, 'We thought we heard someone in here — come in!'" said Brown.

The families hunkered down together, staying relatively dry overnight. "Water didn't really enter their home because it's 10.4 feet above sea level; ours is 1.1," she explained.

The next morning, Brown and Duckwall walked home in about 1 foot of street water to assess damage to the residence they purchased one year ago.

"There's nothing really left to our home — it's unlivable," Brown said. "Just muck and mud. Our couch was on our kitchen counter and our roof took extensive wind damage."

The Fort Myers home of Callie Brown and Chad Duckwall was destroyed by Hurricane Ian. (Courtesy Callie Brown)
The Fort Myers home of Callie Brown and Chad Duckwall was destroyed by Hurricane Ian. (Courtesy Callie Brown)

The couple is staying at Duckwall's mother's condo, located 30 minutes south of Fort Myers. Next month, they'll move into a two-bedroom rental in the surrounding area.

"Chad works in real estate and vacation rental management so we're assessing whether he still has a job," said Brown. "In the meantime, we'll live off our savings and people's donations. We have zero possessions left."

The family is in good health — though Brown is still healing from a C-section.

"Someone was definitely watching over us that day; I feel so blessed and thankful to have our family intact," she said. "I don't feel like a supermom; we went into survival mode to take care of our little guy."

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This article was originally published on TODAY.com