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

THE RE-ENTRY SHUFFLE

Posted: Sunday, September 25 at 01:02 am CT by Bob Sullivan

HOUSTON -- The message from local and state officials is clear -- don't come home yet. And so is the response. We're coming home anyway. Tonight, Houston seems open for business. On the way into the city this afternoon, even before the rains and wind died down, highways to Houston began to clog. People hitched rides to abandoned cars, hoping to get started on the long trek home. And even before the gasoline trucks arrived, the great Houston exodus began to reverse.

Some returned disappointed. Hundreds of abandoned cars, left on the highways when their gas tanks ran dry, were towed.  Retrieving the cars will cost $159; local reports tell drivers to keep their receipts, as the local government plans to work out a reimbursement plan – like a Hurricane Rita expense account.

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Diners eat at Houston restaurant Les Givral's Kahve Saturday night. Despite a crush of residents pouring back into the city, most businesses remained closed Saturday evening. Those that opened, like this restaurant, were doing a booming business. (Andrew Locke / MSNBC.com)

Gasoline is flowing in some stations, another encouragement for people to return.  So is beer at La Carafe, the bar we visited on Friday night.  It's open on Saturday -- and in fact, it never really closed, we're told.

Despite all the activity, there is a plan to keep a lid on the return of the Houston and Galveston diaspora. Officials have segmented the city into slices, telling some residents to return on Sunday, and others Monday or Tuesday.  But it's not clear how many residents will heed those guidelines.

As Saturday turns to Sunday, all the discussion in Houston is focused on one issue: how bad will the traffic be? This morning, the question was "How much rain would there be?" Tomorrow, the question will be: “How many cars will there be?”

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