PANAMA CITY, Fla. — For some in Bay County, a return to normal following Category 5 Hurricane Michael has been slow.
- The Seglers say their home is in limbo post-Michael
- Couple currently stays in their camper, unable to live in home
- HURRICANE MICHAEL, 1 YEAR LATER:
“We were hit by a devastating hurricane, and our lives are not back to where they should be," said Ann Segler.
For the last few months, Ann, her husband Randy and their two pups have been living in a 175 square foot camper, parked 10 feet away from their Panama City home.
The couple received some money post Hurricane Michael to fix their roof.
But, one year later, they remain in limbo, waiting on thousands from the insurance company, which they said that they're owed. Work on the home, now gutted, has stalled. The couple hired representation, as months of tears turned to anger.
“(We) can’t proceed with repairs on the house because we haven’t gotten the money to do it," Randy said. “We’re just trapped.”
Just the Memories
The couple built their West 10th Court home 18 years ago, carefully laying out an open concept kitchen and family room in the heart of the home.
“This is where it all happened. That’s why we designed the house," said Ann, sitting in her kitchen. “We raised our children here. My husband and I grew up in this neighborhood."
It's a space the Seglers rarely use now, except to warm up a meal before heading back to the camper. The cabinets are ripped from the walls, with mold festering by the floor boards. Appliances, pots and pans are stacked high where a sofa used to sit. Insulation rains down from the ceiling and temps continually soar.
“We don’t celebrate holidays, we don’t have people over," Ann said. “It’s still like this, a year later, and it’s frustrating."
Randy, a former Scoutmaster, said that his skills have come in handy when dealing with their "new normal."
“We have a lot of experience camping," he said. “It’s been an adjustment."
But the notion of ever leaving their home never crossed his mind. In the days after Michael, Randy said that he and his son slept on the front porch; they stared out into the suddenly-dark neighborhood blanketed by a sea of fallen trees, which Randy said looked like "the Amazon."
“We’re not comfortable leaving the house even today, because of the looters and squatters," he explained.
So, the couple keeps watch from their rented out camper, which they said has been costing them thousands each month and stretching them financially. And they said that they're not alone, with many neighbors in similar predicaments waiting on payouts.
“You see house after house with campers in the driveway," Randy said.
Others who have received owed money are searching for contractors to do the work, but not finding success. There are repairs to be made all over the Panhandle and not enough affordable housing to keep contractors.
“There are so many others suffering, just like we are," Ann said. “We’re not the only ones.”