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.

CONTINUED »

DiscussDiscuss (59 comments) Email thisEmail this | Link to thisLink to this

FEMA ARRIVES -- WITHOUT GAS

Posted Saturday, September 24 at 05:55 pm CT by Bob Sullivan.

LIVINGSTON, Texas -- During the unexpected night and day at the shelter, tensions rise as time passes. There's one question we hear everywhere:  Where's the gas we kept hearing about? It's still raining and a bit windy, but the worst of hurricane has passed, and everyone is free to go. But no one's leaving, and in fact, more cars and people keep showing up.  They are stranded for want of a working gasoline station. 

Then at about 1 p.m., three white 18-wheelers with paper signs out front that say "FEMA" roll in. On the front, they say ice, food and water.  But still no gas, which is the only thing people here really want.

CONTINUED »

DiscussDiscuss (52 comments) Email thisEmail this | Link to thisLink to this

STRANDED ON EMPTY

Posted Saturday, September 24 at 05:50 pm CT by Bob Sullivan.

LIVINGSTON, Texas -- Maybe you saw those pictures Wednesday of thousands of cars stuck in traffic fleeing Houston, trying to escape Hurricane Rita.  Maybe you were wondering what happened to all those people we talked to on Route 59, whose cars were running out of gas and overheating.

050924_blog_livingston VIDEO: Jenny Gregory talks with Bob Sullivan about her thwarted evacuation from Humble, Texas, to Oklahoma. She was panicky and claustrophobic. "I was thinking we need to get gas now. Where's water, where's food ... what are we going to do?"  (Andrew Locke / MSNBC.com)

Well, we found them. About one hour's drive north of Houston, we found thousands of them, stranded.  They had made it as far as Livingston, and there, many simply ran out of gas. Now, 2,100 people are calling Livingston Junior High their home. Several hundred more, including dozens of frail elderly, are staying at the elementary school nearby. The schools just spontaneously turned into shelters Thursday, when people's cars began to cut out. Some had simply resorted to walking, abandoning their cars on the side of the road, not wanting to be stuck on a highway when the storm hit.

CONTINUED »

DiscussDiscuss (32 comments) Email thisEmail this | Link to thisLink to this

ON THE MOVE

Posted Saturday, September 24 at 11:35 am CT by Bob Sullivan.

HOUSTON -- As the morning progresses and more people start to emerge onto Houston's deserted streets, our first impression -- that the city largely escaped unscathed -- seems to hold.

But east and north of the city, news reports indicate a very different picture. We're now headed toward Livingston, some 70 miles north and east of Houston. It's just up route 59, where traffic completely snarled on Thursday. Word is, many people got stuck on the highway, ran out of gas, and couldn't get any farther than Livingston. The mayor, Ben Olgetree, was on local television, asking for help. The unexpected rush of evacuees has drained the city's emergency food and water supplies. If we get there we'll tell you how they're doing.

DiscussDiscuss (29 comments) Email thisEmail this | Link to thisLink to this

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.

050924_locke_houston
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)

CONTINUED »

DiscussDiscuss (8 comments) Email thisEmail this | Link to thisLink to this

Seeking solace and soap operas

Posted Friday, September 23 at 11:09 pm CT by Bob Sullivan.

HOUSTON -- A midnight curfew is looming, so families cart their dogs downstairs for one last walk. The barking makes the hotel entrance sound very much like a dog park on a sunny Saturday.

The worst of the storm is only a couple of hours away now, and people are hunkering down. Families bring their kids downstairs, too, for one last bit of fresh air. As night falls, the rains and wind arrive. Curious wind-watchers poke their heads out the front door, but they don't stray far.  Two 3-year-olds near the entrance make up a game, throwing paper in the air to see how far it flies back into the hotel. I wonder how my family, and how all our families, would find ways to stay happy the night before a storm.

CONTINUED »

DiscussDiscuss (18 comments) Email thisEmail this | Link to thisLink to this

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)

CONTINUED »

DiscussDiscuss (19 comments) Email thisEmail this | Link to thisLink to this

LAST SOULS ON THE STREETS

Posted Friday, September 23 at 05:32 pm CT by Bob Sullivan.

HOUSTON -- There isn't much on the city streets other than papers blowing around.

Still, at mid-afternoon we shuttle around downtown looking for the last souls in Houston.  The good news is, there aren't many.

CONTINUED »

DiscussDiscuss (22 comments) Email thisEmail this | Link to thisLink to this

THIS TIME, IT'S A DRILL

Posted Friday, September 23 at 04:39 pm CT by Bob Sullivan.

HOUSTON -- A screeching, almost unbearable whistle blows through the hotel's emergency public address systems. It's a little like that "emergency radio system," tone you hear on the radio once in a while, but always ignore.

This one can't be ignored. There's a mandatory meeting for all guests in the hotel's ballroom, we're told.

CONTINUED »

DiscussDiscuss (12 comments) Email thisEmail this | Link to thisLink to this

CHASED BY HURRICANES

Posted Friday, September 23 at 02:57 pm CT by Bob Sullivan.

HOUSTON -- Kris Markey just can't believe what she's watching. Hurricanes, it seems, are chasing her.

Four weeks ago, she and husband Mike had packed their bags and were planning to leave New Orleans on vacation. Before Katrina hit, they were in their cars and headed toward the airport. But they didn't make it out in time. Their flight was canceled.

CONTINUED »

DiscussDiscuss (36 comments) Email thisEmail this | Link to thisLink to this