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East Tennessee couple back home after Hurricane Maria strands them in Virgin Islands

ALCOA, Tenn. (WATE) - An East Tennessee couple received a warm welcome home on Thursday after being stranded on the island of St. Croix for nearly two weeks since Hurricane Maria first hit the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Savannah and Robert Pierce arrived at McGhee Tyson Airport, bringing joy and relief to their families who were waiting anxiously to greet them.

It was an emotional, but very happy reunion for the couple from Oliver Springs. For several days, they were unable to communicated with their loved ones back home. They were vacationing in St. Croix for their one year anniversary, when the island took a direct hit from Hurricane Maria.

"There really was no warning. There was no way to get out," said Savannah Pierce.

When the eye of the Category 5 storm passed over their ocean front resort, there was no time to prepare.

"Really loud, the doors were smacking. Some of the emergency doors just blew out like one in the morning.  Everybody was screaming. There was water coming in underneath the building. It was flooding pretty bad," said Robert Pierce, Savannah's husband.

Unable to leave, the Pierces moved to a shelter set up in a casino. They slept in cots provided by the Red Cross. After several days, they got the call they had been waiting for, a flight ready to take them home.

Robert Pierce adds, "I was excited. I was ready to get home."

The couple took a mercy flight to Orlando, Florida before making it to Charlotte, North Carolina and finally back in Knoxville. They know other other tourists aren't as fortunate to find a way out.

"I know there's so many people over there that are still stranded and they have no way to contact their families," said Savannah Pierce. "And there's a lot of people there who need the word out that they're okay, they have a lot of damage, but we're going to come back and come back stronger."

The Pierces hope the people on St. Croix carry that strength with them as they start to rebuild.

"Don't give up hope. We're praying for you."

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