Editor's Note: After more than 24 harrowing hours, Beth Booker's mom, Carole McDanel, was found alive and has since been transported to safety. This was their story leading up to that moment.
One mom of two is desperately searching for her own mother after seeing her mom's house under water after Tropical Storm Ian hit Florida as a Category 4 hurricane.
Beth Booker, 32, was not surprised when her 78-year-old mom, Carole McDanel, said she wanted to stay in her Fort Myers home as Hurricane Ian neared the Florida coast.
"We've had that home for 24 years," Booker told TODAY Parents. "She's a very stubborn, set-in-her-ways fantastic person and she's strong — she's tough as nails."
Booker and her husband drove to Fort Myers from their home in North Naples, Florida the day before the storm hit to help fortify her mother's impact windows, put up shutters, make sure she had lanterns, batteries and water and move all the family heirlooms to higher ground.
"I pushed her to leave," Booker said. "I said, 'Maybe you should come stay with me.' She assured me that she was fine and more worried about me. She didn't evacuate because the storm was initially heading toward Tampa and we honestly didn't think it was going to be as catastrophic as it has been."
Booker was talking to her mother as Ian descended upon Florida and the storm surge hit Fort Myers. As the flood waters began to rise — eventually completely submerging the first floor of Booker's childhood home — reality began to set in.
"I asked her if she was OK," Booker explained. "She said: 'I'm not scared. I'm not going to die. I'm going to survive this. I'm going to to be fine.'"
Booker was fielding requests from friends, asking if her mother would feel comfortable taking photos and videos to show the world Ian's devastation. Her mother — forever an adventurer with what Booker describes as a treasure trove of life stories — was all too eager to please.
"She sent me a bunch of random photos and videos, and she's 78 so sometimes her finger was in them. I mean, I love her," Booker said.
As the photos gave a first-person view of the storm, they also showed the danger.
"I felt sick," Booker said.
Ian hit Florida as a major Category 4 hurricane on Wednesday, Sept. 28. The storm brought with it 150 mph winds, a life-threatening storm surge and has left an estimated 2.5 million customers across the state without power.
On Sept. 28 at 3 in the afternoon, Booker says she was on the phone with her mom, urging her to find a whistle in case the flood waters reached higher. She told her mother that if the worst were to happen, she needed to get to the highest point of the home — the roof — and use the whistle to signal for help.
That was the last time she spoke to her mother.
"She was trying to find this whistle she had for her dog who passed away in August and the phone cut out," Booker said. "That's when the lines went. The fact that haven't heard from her is extremely hard — I don't know what's going on and she's by herself."
'Help is coming ... and I love her'
Booker has been constantly calling her mom's phone in the hopes she will get through.
"At one point it rang twice then went to voicemail, so I'm assuming her phone is off," she explained. "I've been leaving her voice messages telling her that help is coming and that I love her."
Booker has also been sending text messages — via iMessage, SMS and a walkie talkie app.
"I haven't heard back on anything, but it just felt really important to me to tell her that help is coming and that she is OK and that I love her," she added.
Booker decided to post pictures of the flooding on Twitter and share her mom's story, in the hopes that her mom will be rescued.
Storm surge outside of my moms house on Fort Myers Beach.
I’m so sick. pic.twitter.com/12ujJqmacH
— Beth #GetCaroleHome (@itsbethbooker) September 28, 2022
"I'm on Twitter all the time — I work in PR and marketing so I live on there. So I was just sharing the photos and I was not expecting that kind of response," she said.
With the help of both friends and total strangers, Booker has been on the phone with local emergency officials and volunteer rescue organizations. Some friends have offered to try to reach her mother's home.
"We're Florida people so we're crazy," she explained. "So they were like, 'We have a boat in the yard, we can go look for her.' I said absolutely not. I would never able to forgive myself if something happened to someone. It's too dangerous."
Until rescue workers and other authorized personnel can reach Booker's mom, all she can do is wait.
"The hardest part has been the waiting," Booker said. "I feel like I've done everything I possibly can by continuing to share her story online and trying to reach out to every rescue organization. And I'm grateful for the powers of the good of the internet for bringing me resources at a time when I feel extremely helpless.
"I don't know if I'm out of tears or what — I cried so much yesterday," she added. "But I woke up this morning and said that's enough. I want to bring her home. I want everyone to know who she is. I want people to know she deserves all of it. She is the number one person who everyone turns to in a crisis, and right now she needs everyone's help."
'Once I see her again, I'll be able to breathe'
Booker said she has a very special connection with her mother — a bond that makes her feel as though it's just "me and her against the world."
Carole is actually her grandmother, she explained. "She was my birth father's mom. My dad was a single father — my parents split up when I was really little."
When Booker was 5, her birth father died of coronary artery disease and her grandmother and “papa” adopted her. Three years later, her birth mother — who Booker says she "hardly knew" — died in a car accident.
“I had a very rough beginning of my childhood with losing my father. Having them raise me was a privilege,” Booker added. “I used to call her mom all the time anyways because my birth mother wasn’t in the picture. She told me that the day my dad passed I called her mom and it was the first time she answered.”
My mom has bunnies she takes care of who come hang out in her front yard. She literally buys them carrots. She was so worried that they would be hurt or scared during the storm.
— Beth #GetCaroleHome (@itsbethbooker) September 29, 2022
As she waits for rescue crews to reach her mother and bring her home, Booker is also caring for her two boys, ages 7 and 4, and weathering the same storm in North Naples, Florida.
She said she's thinking about all the things she likes to do with her mother — go out to eat; listen to her wild and crazy stories as they drink wine; watch her finally enjoy being a grandmother after she became an adopted mom so soon after her son passed away.
"I only got to call her grandmother for a short period in my life," Booker explained, adding that her sons love to visit grandma so they can stay up late, eat treats and go night swimming. "It's been really beautiful to see her embrace that grandmother role, finally, with my kids."
Booker doesn't know how her mom will feel about the internet becoming so involved in this experience. "She's going to be either incredibly upset with me or incredibly impressed that I have managed to rally the internet behind her," she added.
She does say she knows what she will do when she sees her mom again. "I'll jump on her and squeeze her and I will 1,000% be crying, but I will be extremely grateful," she explained. "Once I see her again, I'll be able to breathe."
This article was originally published on TODAY.com