(CNN) — Hope Labriola lay naked on her bed as water rose inside her mobile home as Hurricane Ian roared overhead.
For a few moments, the 45-year-old Fort Myers Beach woman spoke on her cell phone with her friend Lisbeth Whelan before losing phone service.
The phone call, which Whelan was able to record, occurred around 5 pm Wednesday and lasted about 3 minutes before the call was dropped, the recording shows.
“I heard the water go into his phone and then everything went off,” Whelan told CNN.
“I feel very cold”
“He told me that his nose was touching the ceiling and that he was having trouble breathing. It was torture,” Wheeler said. She “she was naked. She had to take her clothes off because her clothes got wet and weighed her down and she only weighs about 100 pounds.”
During the phone call, a crying Labriola is heard repeatedly saying, “I can’t do this” and “I’m so cold.”
Whelan told CNN that Labriola was crying during earlier calls as he watched the floods destroy his family’s heirlooms.
Seconds before the call was cut off, Whelan asks Labriola if there were any waves nearby that he was listening to on the phone. A crying Labriola responded with “I love you” and the call ended.
Whelan posted on several Facebook groups pleading with rescue groups to search for her friend, but was told it was still too dangerous to start rescue efforts.
Volunteers came to his rescue
Whelan finally heard from Labriola Thursday night, telling CNN she was delighted to learn her friend had been rescued by the volunteer disaster relief group, the Cajun Navy, early Thursday morning.
In an interview with CNN on Friday morning, Labriola, who has lived with her cat in the area for about 10 years, said she was rescued by the Cajun Army around 3 a.m. Thursday morning.
“I saw some flashlights and I started screaming for help through this little crack in my window,” Labriola said. “At this point, the water was up to my shoulders.”
“They couldn’t get into my house. They tried to break the windows, they tried to do what they could. They finally got me out,” she said.
Labriola told CNN that she lay naked in her bed for several hours while avoiding the gushing waters in her one-story home.
Once safe, Labriola said he also witnessed the Cajun Army rescue 19 other people, including a man who was trapped in a tree.
The residents who were rescued and transported to a hospital around 6 a.m. Thursday morning, according to Labriola, who was suffering from hypothermia when he arrived at the emergency room.
Recovery and relocation
Labriola is still in a state of shock, but was released from the hospital Thursday night, he said. She is currently sheltering at South Fort Myers High School with other displaced residents.
Labriola said she stayed home to take care of her cat and weather the storm. Fort Myers Beach was included in Lee County’s mandatory evacuation order before Hurricane Ian made landfall.
Labriola told CNN that he does not plan to return to Fort Myers Beach.
“People are like what are you going to do? And I tell them I’m leaving. You can’t get a house here. The whole place is flattened,” she claimed.
Labriola’s house was completely destroyed, but she managed to save her wallet and cell phone before being rescued. As of Friday morning, she is still wearing the hospital gown she was given, but she is thankful to be alive.
“That was the scariest thing I’ve ever been through. I didn’t think I was going to survive,” she said.