Batten down the hatches


UPDATE (9/23, 9 p.m.):We're in San Antonio and will post updates as warranted Saturday on the status of Reliant Stadium and the Texans' immediate plans.

Mother Nature doesn't brake for anyone, especially a football team. Just venture west on Interstate 10 and ask the New Orleans Saints.

And as Hurricane Rita churns in the Gulf of Mexico with the Texas coast in its sights, the Texans aren't taking any chances. After finishing practice Wednesday, head coach Dom Capers told his players that tomorrow's practice was cancelled.

"We've done that so the players can tend to their families and make any adjustments that they had to make," Capers said. "Many of them had scheduled trips out of town with it being the bye week."

But that's just the beginning of the club's preparation. Rita is scheduled to make landfall late Friday night so the Texans decided to close their offices effective this afternoon. What happens to those offices between now and then is anybody's guess.

"Our plan is to be back here practicing next week," general manager Charley Casserly said. "If we have power, we can practice. We can run our meetings, we can run our locker room. If we have power, we can operate."

But if Rita knocks out the power at the stadium, the Texans have a contingency plan in place. The team would fly to Cincinnati five days early, leaving Monday to prepare for its Oct. 2 game against the Bengals.

"We've lined up a practice facility, we've lined up hotel rooms and we've told everybody to have everything packed by tomorrow night," Casserly said.

So instead of packing for one night, the Texans would be bringing a few extra clothes, not to mention extra jerseys, training supplies and anything else the team would normally have at Reliant Stadium.

"You're bringing a suitcase instead of an overnight bag," Casserly said.

So what will happen to the stadium? Your guess is a good as ours. Owner Bob McNair was asked if the team was planning to bring in generators.

"No," he said. "We have looked into that. In the stadium, the electrical system is such that you'd have to power the whole stadium up. We've looked into powering up the team's section so that we can keep working there. But there are two feeds going into the stadium. The stadium can operate on either feed, as I understand it. Both feeds would have to go out before we could lose electricity. And those feeds are a high priority.

"Hopefully, we won't lose our power. And if we do, it would be for a short period of time."

And McNair is also planning to keep a close eye on the practice facility across the street, specifically the bubble.

"We're concerned about it," McNair said. "It was built to withstand hurricane winds. We're double-checking, because we're talking about force one, two, three, four or five. This bubble was built to withstand winds of 110 miles per hour, or something like that.

"We're looking at alternatives of what can be done in the event we do have a problem. I think the stadium is going to hold up to any storm conditions. During (Tropical Storm) Allison, we were building the stadium. The water did not come up to the site. It was in the streets. I think from the standpoint of flooding, hopefully we'll be all right."

If the stadium and practice facility emerge relatively unscathed, then Capers expects to see his players and coaches at 8 a.m. Monday.

"The message that Coach gave to our players was 'Take care of your families, see that everybody is safe and be back here Monday,'" McNair said. "Hopefully, we'll have power and we'll be able to practice and everything will be all right. We'll just have to wait and see."

As will all of us. This storm, especially in light of what happened to Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama a few weeks ago, should be taken very seriously. Stay safe.

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