Local couple back in Florida after enduring Hurricane Irma in Caribbean

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Bo and Reba Wilkerson have been married for 18 years. Reba is from Panama City and the couple now lives near the Chocktawhatchee River.

To celebrate their September birthdays, the two planned a trip to St. Maarten, an island in the Caribbean.

They said they were able to enjoy the first two days of their trip, but were unable to evacuate before Hurricane Irma hit because there were no flights going out.

"If it hadn't been for God, we wouldn't have gotten out of there," Reba said.

Reba said she was no stranger to hurricanes.

"I'm from Florida, so I'm familiar with the hurricanes, that's why I boarded up the room, the window, because I knew that was going to go first."

This storm, a strong Category 5 hurricane, was something the couple had never experienced before.

The National Hurricane Center said maximum sustained wind speeds were 185 miles per hour.

"The wind coming in our window was so strong that the door had to pull back, and I could not get that door back. We tried to get it but we couldn't," Bo said.

The window they had boarded up shattered.

"Somebody outside heard us, they ran to it and unlock the door open, so we got enough gap in the door where we could out, and that's when we went to the stairwell," Bo said.

Bo and Reba said people who lived on the island sought shelter in their hotel.

In the aftermath, they said another storm started: looting.

"Actually I didn't feel in danger. I wasn't as afraid of the hurricane because I've sat all of them out and I knew I was in a strong place, as I was, of the aggression, the looting, just no regard for life," Reba said.

Bo and Reba said people were stealing items like televisions.

Reba said her daughter, Lisa, worked tirelessly to contact government officials, including Congressman Neal Dunn.

"There were people trying to knock down their door to get into their hotel room to rob them," Dunn said.

The Wilkersons attributed their rescue to Reba's daughter, Congressman Neal Dunn, Senator George Gainer, and Colonel Margaret Blais from Tyndall Air Force Base.

"We sent five C-130 aircraft and state department sent a jet and we picked up a whole lot of Americans," Dunn said.

Reba and Bo said the Air Force rescued them and other Americans by using U.S. cargo planes. They were taken to Puerto Rico, where they then flew back to the continental United States.

The couple evacuated St. Maarten on September 9, the original day they had planned to leave the hotel.

"I cried when I saw that airplane coming in," Reba said.

Reba said they are thankful for the prayers from their friends and family, as well as the aid they received from the military and government.

"Well, we have got quite a network anyway. We're a lot of prayer warriors, that's what we call ourselves and of course, we had so many people. Every time, it's really funny, every time I turned my iPad on and I could text Lisa, it was just blowing up."

Bo and Reba arrived in Florida on Tuesday, the same day as Bo's birthday.