Satellite image of Hurricane Rita over the Gulf of Mexico.

Hurricane Rita, shown here at its maximum strength with sustained winds of 180 mph, was the 4th most intense Atlantic hurricane ever recorded and the most intense in the Gulf of Mexico.

NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS)

Maranatha Church in Mont Belvieu, Texas is located just 70 miles west of where the eye of Hurricane Rita hit Texas and Louisiana last week.

As millions of people attempted to evacuate the Houston area, I-45 became completely clogged. Northbound traffic moved at speeds between one-half to one mile per hour. Because of this, about a dozen members of Maranatha decided to stay in their Monolithic Dome church during the hurricane.

The 60-foot diameter administration office dome.

Members of the Maranatha Church congregation took refuge during Hurricane Rita in the 60-foot diameter administration office behind the main chapel.

Dora Hatch, a secretary at Maranatha, hunkered down with her family. She said, “We tried to evacuate, but after 9 hours in the car, we were only a few miles away, so we came back. We stayed in the Monolithic Dome office at the church, while others stayed in the sanctuary. Those that stayed in the sanctuary said the storm was ‘eerie’ because they could hear it, but felt safe from it.”

Wind gusts of up to 100 mph were reported in their area. Their Monolithic Dome church went unscathed.

After the storm, Dora and her family were relieved to find damage to their property was limited to the loss of a few electric poles. Damage in the area near the church seemed to be located in “pockets.” Random clusters of homes had their roofs sheared off. Large trees were uprooted and fences were blown down.

Members stayed in the sanctuary during the hurricane.

While others took refuge in the 4,000 seat sanctuary. They said they could hear it, but felt safe through the storm.