PANAMA CITY — Lori Ubowski has two words to describe Panama City: "total loss."

“It’s numbing,” Ubowski said. “There are moments you’re just standing there and it’s just tears. Then there’s moments when you’re numb. You can’t even process what just happened.”

Ubowski woke up Monday morning intending to buy batteries, water, food — the essentials. Michael was still a newly formed storm, she said.

 

By 11 a.m. she and her husband, Adam, decided to place shutters on the windows. By 7 p.m. they packed what they could and evacuated with their three children.

“I don’t think anyone ever would have imagined that this storm could practically be a Category 5 hurricane,” Ubowski said. “No one could’ve imagined that would’ve happened in such a short amount of time with such a fast-moving storm.”

The family arrived in Orlando at 2 a.m. They spent Wednesday with their eyes glued to the TV and their cellphones, hoping to hear news about their friends’ safety and the conditions of their home and church, Ubowski said.

She received news about the St. Dominic Catholic Church from Father Luke Farabaugh. He stayed in the church’s rectory, which now has exposed beams from the roof being partially blown off.

“The parish hall is completely gone, I mean just obliterated,” Ubowski said. “The book store is destroyed. Our church had stained glass windows blown in. It has water damage.”

Ubowski's neighbor also sent her photos and a video from their home.

“It lost probably over half of its shingles and there’s a hole somewhere that caused an inch of water to gather on our first floor,” Ubowski said. “Part of the ceiling caved in. We lost our fence. We took a pretty good hit.”

Much of their stuff is ruined, but she's grateful because a home in the same neighborhood lost half of its brick, Ubowski said. She has also heard that 23rd Street., a main shopping area in Panama City, sustained significant damage and looting after the storm.

“It’s just devastating," Ubowski said. “Everyone has major damage. It’s unreal.”

Ubowski has heard many messages through social media from friends who stayed in Panama City.

“Nothing matters now, just that we’re alive,” Ubowski said, quoting her friends. “We’ll never do that again. We’ll never stay again.”

“I worry about the people who stayed. They had no idea they’d be trapped this long.”