As Hurricane Michael has killed as many as 39 people earlier this month, one Florida family is counting its blessings after they survived the storm trapped in a flooding warehouse.
As the Category 4 storm was fast approaching the Florida panhandle on Wednesday Oct. 15, Stephanie and Will Cribbs decided that they needed to evacuate their Mexico Beach house at around 6:30 a.m. with their four children (ages 6, 6, 5, and 2.)
As their house sits about a quarter-mile from the shore, they needed to go to a warehouse owned by Cribbs' father that was supposed to provide more safety for the family during the storm.
But before they left the house, the Cribbs said a short prayer asking God to protect their family and their house so that they would have a home to come back to.
"We just left the house not knowing what was going to happen after that," Stephanie Cribbs told The Christian Post in an interview this week.
What happened after that, Cribbs will never forget.
The family made the trek to the warehouse, which was a couple streets from their home but back farther from the beach. The warehouse had never experienced any flooding, so the family figured that was their safest option.
"When it really started coming in, we could feel the walls shaking. You could hear the howling. It was just a very eerie sound," Cribbs explained, saying the winds at times exceeded 150 miles per hour. "When [the eye] came over, you could look down the road and you could see it looked like a little river trickling down and all of a sudden it was this massive flood storm racing through."
Cribbs saw her family's cars wash away and trees get uprooted. But without a doubt, the scariest moment came when the door to the warehouse popped open.
"When it popped open, we were at ankle-deep water, then it was waist-deep and then it was up to our chest in a matter of a minute or two," Cribbs detailed.
The family had to climb on top of the roof of the office inside of the warehouse just to stay out of the water. In all, its was Cribbs, her husband, the four kids, Cribbs' 91-year-old grandmother, Cribb's parents and four dogs on top of the office roof.
"We started just watching the inside of the building and started watching as the water kept rising and rising and it kept getting closer to us," Cribbs recalled.
She said that her children feared for their lives.
"When the water started rising, my son, we put him up on one of the desks in the warehouse and were trying to make sure that the door was getting secured and just figuring out what we are going to do next. He just kept screaming, 'We are going to die! We are going to die! We are going to die!'" Cribbs said.
"I just said to him, 'We are not going to die.' My mom said, 'In the name of Jesus, we are not going to die,'" she continued. "That was the hardest thing — the children. We chose to stay and we saw the fear on their faces."
Fortunately, the water began to subside and as quickly as the water filled the warehouse, it began to drain.
After about four hours inside the warehouse, the family thought it was safe to return home. But what they saw when the left the warehouse was completely different from when they went in.
As for the wearhouse itself, it suffered flood damage and had its garage door damaged by a runaway sailboat.
As the family walked through the neighborhood back to their home, Cribbs said that almost every home had either a tree through their roof or had their windows blown out. Some of her neighbors didn't have much of a home to go back to.
The Cribbs family feared the possibilities of what happened to their home. But a sigh of relief came as they approached and found very minimal damage to their home compared to their neighbors' homes.
"It was like God put a bubble over our house," Cribbs said. "It was absolutely amazing. Our house is so protected. If you look around our street everywhere — behind us, in front of us, the sides of us — everybody has a tree in their house or they are missing a wall or their house is just gone. Here our house is standing."
The amazing part, Cribbs said, is the fact that all the trees fell down in their backyard and not a single one fell on their home.
"We should have had a tree through our roof," she contended. "The trees were close to the house. It is just absolutely amazing where they broke and snapped in places or the wind twisted them and turned them in different directions than all the other trees were going."
The Cribbs family only really suffered from siding damage, flooding in the garage, down trees, and their small shed flying away. Also, a port-a-potty flew into their yard. But compared to their neighbors, the Cribbs family is fortunate.
The homes of Cribb's parents and grandmother were not as fortunate.
Her parent's home had part of the roof ripped off, which caused flooding damage that destroyed some of the walls and furniture. As for Cribbs' grandmother, her house is a complete loss. The grandmother plans to move in with Cribb's parents.
The Cribbs were aided in their cleanup efforts by a team of about six volunteers from the evangelical humanitarian organization Samaritan's Purse, who helped them remove the down trees.
Cribbs said that Samaritan's Purse plans to help her parents remove their furniture and gut their house so that they can begin the repair process.
"People need to know that here in Mexico Beach we are being provided for and we are being taken care of," Cribbs said. "People from the church and community groups and Samaritan's Purse. It has been absolutely amazing."
The Cribbs family belongs to First Baptist Church of Port St. Joe, which has also suffered great damage from the hurricane.
"The speaker is knocked over. The stained glass windows are blown out. The top floor roof is gone," Cribbs said. "Even though our church was as bad as it was, every single day we had a group of people from our church come out and bring us ice and batteries and necessities."
As Hurricane Michael has caused hundreds of thousands to lose power and billions of dollars in damages, Samaritan's Purse has received over 2,200 requests for assistance from affected families in Georgia and the Florida Panhandle and is always looking for volunteers and donations.
So far, over 750 volunteers have traveled from across the country to help Hurricane Michael victims clear trees and put tarps on damaged roofs.
In the first week after the storm, Samaritan's purse aided about 70 families in their recovery efforts.