Hatteras Island Christian Fellowship

In the Eye of the Storm

Pastor Billy Rutledge Shares His Experience of Enduring Hurricane Dorian

Part of this article is reprinted from Issue 82 of Calvary Chapel Magazine, published in 2019
Original story by Carmel Flippen
Photos courtesy of HICF

Tropical Storm Arthur is bearing down on Hatteras Island, which juts out into the Atlantic from the North Carolina coast. Last fall Calvary Chapel Magazine documented what Pastor Billy Rutledge, Hatteras Island Christian Fellowship, a Calvary Chapel affiliate, personally endured when the eye of Hurricane Dorian passed overhead. Though we pray that the aftermath of this tropical storm will not be as severe as the hurricane’s fury, we thought it would be good to count and share the emotional cost of staying behind to be there to do ministry in the Name of Jesus after the storm passes. The first named storm in the Atlantic for 2020, Tropical Storm Arthur will bring heavy rains, sustained winds of 50 mph, and high surf to the coast of North Carolina and specifically Hatteras Island. As of late Monday morning, Arthur was located 20 miles east-southeast of Cape Hatteras, according to the National Weather Service. May we remember to pray for all those in the path of the storm.

In the Eye of the Hurricane

According to Pastor Billy, viewing news reports of the damage in the Bahamas created pre-storm anxiety. Hatteras Island is a sandbar 30 miles out to sea on North Carolina’s Outer Banks with one highway from which you can see both sides of the island.

“Living on a narrow sandbar in the direct path of every East Coast hurricane can be very unsettling when a Category 4 storm is in the Caribbean, heading your way. You scurry about buying supplies and equipment—boarding up windows and making sure your property is secured, placing cars on high ground, and putting valuables in plastic bags. And then you wait.”

Hatteras Island school underwater

Cape Hatteras Secondary School is deluged by flooding from Hurricane Dorian.

“Later you are awakened to the howling wind and your house shaking. And then later the eye of the storm arrives; the sun shines and the wind becomes calm. Within an hour the winds return with a ferocious, violent force that you didn’t experience on the front side of the eye of the hurricane.”

“The waters come rushing in, and within an hour it is higher than you ever could have imagined. The house no longer just shakes and sways—it actually shudders, and you fear that the storm has created a tornado which can completely destroy your home and take lives. You can hear the toilet splashing and the water in the sink trap gurgling as it is sucked out by the intense winds blowing across the vent. If your house is on ground level, you watch the water rise to your porch and seep into your home. Before long it’s splashing into your electrical sockets. The fear of electrocution and fire fills your thoughts as your heart breaks watching your home destroyed; furniture, beds, and clothes are ruined. Then it happens: The water rises to a level outside, pushing the raw sewage in your septic tank back through your toilet and tub. In the darkness of the storm, the smell of sewage spilling into your living space takes away even the relief of breathing.”

Pastor Billy with wheelbarrow in damaged building

Pastor Billy Rutledge of Hatteras Island Christian Fellowship removes debris from inside Rocco’s Pizza in Hatteras after Hurricane Dorian.

“Finally, the worst of the storm passes and everyone exits their homes, moving slowly, taking it all in, wondering how much damage has been done to your property and if your friends and family are okay. Next you look to see if help is coming—or if maybe you are the help. You wade through sewage-infested waters and praise the Lord that your family is unhurt and your home is still standing. Overwhelmed by the avalanche of emotions, you wonder what is next. This is where the mission of serving in the name of Jesus begins.”

Pastor Billy leads group in prayer for survivor

Billy (left) prays with a Hatteras Village resident after Hurricane Dorian struck the island.

© 2020 Calvary Chapel Magazine. All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.