RELIEF – AND GUILT SOMEONE ELSE GOT HIT
Posted: Saturday, September 24 at 10:15 am CT by msnbc.com
HOUSTON -- The sun is rising in Houston this morning. And as it does, residents of the Magnolia Hotel are finding Houston was largely spared.
The vacant city saw some stiff winds and a good drench of rain, but damage is fairly light. Our hotel never lost power, and during the night the howling winds never really turned menacing. Already, some guests are beginning to gather their belongings as the streets brighten.
We venture outside the hotel and find a light scattering of objects strewn about - overturned signs, broken branches, what you'd expect from a good thunderstorm.
Trees lay on the ground early Saturday morning in downtown Houston. The city suffered very minor damage and those who stayed were breathing a sigh of relief as dawn broke. (Andrew Locke / MSNBC.com)
But life is hardly normal, and the storm has not yet blown over.
We round a corner, in front of the Houston Chronicle building, and the tall buildings nearby act as a wind tunnel. The gusts are fierce, and make it hard to open the car door -- or even to stand up outside, and at moments, hard to breathe. Three trees are toppled over into the the street, and power lines sway ominously, a reminder that we are still in the middle of a hurricane. Scattered power outages are reported. Police cars block off many downtown streets.
But it is a sense of relief that permeates the hotel. Even last night, just after midnight, hotel marketing director Mike Pratt had time to sit and have a beer -- after the hotel's curfew had been imposed.
Still, there are mixed feelings about the near miss. Hurricane preparation is a zero-sum game -- Houston's good luck is Beaumont's bad, and most hotel residents know this.
Kris Markey, the New Orleans evacuee, spent her first night away from Katrina in a hotel near Beaumont. The folks there gave her free long distance phone calls. "At some point we'd like to head back there and see how they did," she said.
Now, the city's attention turns to when folks can return home. Given Thursday’s traffic debacle, with highways jammed and gasoline supplies run dry, there is concern of a repeat performance this weekend. Mayor Bill White, at a press conference, doesn't give clear instructions, but hints that people should stay put. "If (people) are in a safe place and they have power, they shouldn't be making plans," he said.
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