UPDATE:

Reba and Bo Wilkerson are on their way home, having landed in Puerto Rico following a massive joint effort to get them out of hurricane ravaged St. Maarten.

The couple found themselves stranded as Hurricane Irma made landfall on the island September 6, quickly turning their dream vacation into a nightmare.

Reba's daughter, Lisa Felix reports the couple walked four miles to the airport after being forced to leave the resort, due not only to their reservation being expired, but also out of fear of increasingly volatile looting.

The airport is beginning to regain operation after sustaining heavy damage during landfall of the then-Category 5 storm.

"I am so grateful to everyone who shared their plight, as well as those who worked hard to being them home. Senator George Gainer, Congressman Neal Dunn, and Colonel Margaret Blais of Tyndall Air Force Base."

Blais, who serves as the base's Director of Manpower, Personnel and Services, called Felix late Friday night as a representative of Tyndall's Crisis Management team to offer her assistance.

Along with Senator Gainer and Congressman Dunn, Blais helped develop a plan to bring the Wilkersons home.

But while the Wilkersons are on their way back to safety, Felix stresses there are other U.S. citizens who remain stranded.

"There are literally dozens of Americans standing unprotected at the severely damaged Princess Juliana International Airport with no weather advisories," she said. "I know our military is working to get every home, but we need to keep them in our thoughts as Hurricane Jose continues to approach."

Sen. Gainer, U.S. Rep. Dunn, and U.S. military forces are still working to ensure the safe return of other citizens.

EARLIER STORY:

ST. MAARTEN - Lisa Felix of Panama City says her mother, Reba Wilkerson, simply enjoys life and is always seeking the "next big adventure." But Felix says she's afraid her mother's latest adventure may be too big, even for Wilkerson.

Wilkerson, whose family was among the earliest settlers of Vernon's Steel Field Fish Camp, set off for St. Maarten Saturday, September 2, for a vacation with her husband, Bo Wilkerson.

"I had a bad feeling about it," said Felix. "I knew that [Hurricane Irma] was out there, and I asked them not to go."

The Wilkersons were booked at the Towers at Mullet Bay, a resort which has won awards for its architectural design and is considered one of the island's most structurally sound buildings.

As Category 5 Hurricane Irma loomed, Wilkerson reported children began "just appearing" at the hotel.

"People were just dropping off their kids because they knew it was going to be their safest option," Wilkerson told her daughter.

As Irma made landfall with 185 mph winds and 190 mph wind gusts, the windows in the Wilkersons' hotel room were blown out, forcing the couple to take shelter in a stairwell with about 30 other people, including many of the dropped off children. Amazingly, Felix was able to stay in contact with her mother via text for nearly the entire duration of the storm.

"Mom is a very spiritual person, and she was singing to the children, trying to calm them for about six hours in that crowded stairwell," Felix said. "I was texting her every 15 minutes, and she was telling me how bad it was getting. She said the roar was so loud, you couldn't hear yourself over it. In one of the last texts I sent, I told her I was praying."

Wilkerson's reply to her daughter came just minutes before the storm's eyewall hit at 5:50 a.m.: "Pray harder."

At 8:47 a.m., Felix received another text from her mother, saying the storm seemed to be clearing.

"It was amazing and horrifying at the same time that my phone - which sometimes doesn't give me good reception just from Panama City to Chipley - was able to keep communication with my mother in St. Maarten during a Category 5 hurricane," said Felix.

Unfortunately, surviving one of history's most powerful storms was just the beginning of the couple's challenges.

As the Wilkersons went back to their room in the eerie post-storm calm and began to clean up their wet belongings with the help of hotel staff, widespread looting began.

By Friday, the Wilkersons were barricaded in their battered hotel room, using furniture to block the doors and busted windows in an attempt to prevent scores of individuals from gaining access.

"People are just pounding on their door, trying to get in their room, trying to take over the resort" said Felix. "It's frightening, because you don't know their intentions. It's survival mode."

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte addressed the looting in a press release Friday, calling the situation "serious."

According to the Associated Press, witnesses on the Dutch side of the island say people are roaming the streets armed with 'revolvers and machetes,' and most are surviving without power and running water.

Felix says she felt powerless to help her mother.

"I just felt so helpless," she said. "The only thing I knew to do was reach out on social media and ask for help from my Facebook friends."

Felix's Facebook friends didn't let her down. After hundreds of comments and shares, she was contacted by Homeland Security search and rescue personnel, who assured her efforts are being made to get to her family.

The Pentagon reports detachments have been deployed to the islands to help with search-and-rescue and evacuation operations and that the U.S. military has launched an amphibious relief operation.

Felix says she is hopeful the soldiers can assist her mother and stepfather, but Hurricane Jose is undoubtedly making relief efforts more difficult. Hurricane Jose was upgraded to a Category 4 hurricane Friday - and is following in a path similar to Irma.

The U.S. Department of State issued a statement Friday, saying the department is exploring "every possible option" to assist U.S. citizens in St. Maarten, but the heavily damaged airport and seaports are closed, and the communication infrastructure has been heavily damaged.

With no U.S. consular presence on the island, those with family or friends on the island can register their loved ones with the Department of State by visiting https://tfa.state.gov/

As Felix waits for her mother's safe return - and hopefully, a break from adventure - she says she has no doubt the connection that allowed her to communicate with her mother was one much stronger than man-made infrastructure.

"I really feel there's been some divine intervention with the telephone contact that's been out there." said Felix. "It was a divine connection. God was keeping me connected with her."