About this blog

Andrew Locke and Bob Sullivan

From Sept. 22-27, the posts in this blog about Rita's evacuation and devastation were reported and photographed by Bob Sullivan and Andrew Locke. Sullivan, 37, is MSNBC.com's technology and consumer fraud reporter. Locke, 34, in charge of MSNBC.com's editorial strategy, was on his second hurricane blog tour.

David Friedman and Miguel Llanos

From Sept. 18-22, the posts in this blog, examining Katrina's impact on the environment, were reported and photographed by Miguel Llanos and David Friedman. Llanos, 45, is MSNBC.com's environmental reporter. Photojournalist Friedman, 35, is a multimedia producer at MSNBC.com.

Kari Huus and Jim Seida

From Sept. 10-16, the posts in this blog were reported and photographed by Kari Huus and Jim Seida. Huus, 43, has been a journalist for 20 years and a reporter with MSNBC.com since 1996. Seida, 39, has been a media editor with the Web site since 1996.

Mike Brunker and Andrew Locke mugshot

From Sept. 2-9, the posts in this blog were reported and photographed by Mike Brunker, left, and Andrew Locke. A journalist for 25 years, Brunker, 49, is MSNBC.com's West Coast news editor. Locke, 34, has been a journalist for 17 years and is currently in charge of MSNBC.com's editorial media strategy.

How you can help

How to help the victims of Hurricane Rita

How to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina

A SHINER AND A SONG

Posted: Friday, September 23 at 06:56 pm CT by Bob Sullivan

HOUSTON -- Around the corner, we find more souls. We spot a young woman and a man stepping out of a doorway and hopping on their bicycles. That draws us toward the building and as we get out of the car, we hear music.

It's a bar. And it's open, less than 12 hours before the storm strikes the city.

Bar_stillBuddy Hicks, 42 of Houston, drinks a cold beer at the La Carafe bar in downtown Houston. About a dozen patrons were drinking and listening to music at 3 p.m. Friday afternoon. All were going to ride the storm out in downtown. (Andrew Locke / MSNBC.com)

Video:  Watch and listen to bartender Gavin Conner sing a tune while waiting for Rita to arrive. (Andrew Locke / MSNBC.com)

"We'll be open as long as we can," says the man behind the bar, Gavin Conner, who could easily be mistaken as a musician in Seattle's grunge scene. The tiny building that houses La Carafe -- now home to about 10 last-minute Shiner Bock drinkers -- was once called The Kennedy Bakery. A historic site, it was built by the original John Kennedy in 1860.

Now, the place is the brightest sign of life we've spotted, and perhaps the last place to get a beer in Houston.
 
"I'm open for my customers," Conner said. And business figures to slow way down after Rita hits, so he'd better take it where he can get it.

La Carafe is a few steps from Buffalo Bayou, which runs right through the city. It's the most likely threat to flood downtown Houston. During the afternoon, its water level is far below the street. Ducks sleep peacefully on a bank near a drainpipe, which just trickles water into the bayou. But the wind tells us the peaceful scene there likely won't last.

After the storm, we'll try to get back to the bayou for signs that after-storm flooding will hit Houston. We'll also head back toward La Carafe. After singing a song for us called "Something Inside," Conner promises us a beer if we come back. We tell him we'll try.

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