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Hurricane Rita his hardest on the Texas-Louisiana border. Emergency officials in communities there are still assessing the damage. Residents are not allowed back in their homes in any of the worst-affected areas but damage to life and property was far less than most feared before the storm. And officials in many cities on the Gulf Coast are expressing relief. NPR's Adam Davidson reports from the Gulf on how residents are taking stock.

ADAM DAVIDSON reporting:

For the few who stayed, Hurricane Rita was awful. Joseph Reynolds lives in Port Arthur, Texas. He was waiting for a friend to drive him to safety before the storm, but the friend never showed.

Mr. JOSEPH REYNOLDS: It was so dark, when I opened my door, I couldn't see nothing but wind, hard rain. I watched the tree, as long as I can, come out of the ground right there. It was leaning. And then the next thing I knew, when I look again, it was pulled clean out of the ground. That was--hit people car, smashed the hood in. It was worse.

DAVIDSON: Reynolds spent Sunday sitting on the front porch of his apartment complex with his neighbor, Edward Rogers, who had even worse luck. Rogers gave a tour of his destroyed apartment.

Mr. EDWARD ROGERS: Ceiling come down and all back here is all wet, you know, bedroom wet, everything. Food spoiled, TV doesn't--everything. I mean, I just don't know. I mean, I just don't see how the roof should come down like that.

DAVIDSON: Rogers says he has no savings, no money at all. He saved a few dry clothes and a pair of wet shoes he's drying out in the sun. Everything else that he owns was destroyed.

(Soundbite of ladder; hammering)

DAVIDSON: A few blocks away, Santos Funez(ph) is fixing damage to the garage door at his auto body shop. He says when he got to town Sunday morning, he thought his place would be gone. When he saw that it was standing, he took out his cell phone.

Mr. SANTOS FUNEZ: I called Cincinnati. I called many places, wherever my friends. You know, hey, I'm lucky. My building is still standing. OK. I'm happy. I'm happy. I can't say another word, just happy.

DAVIDSON: Much of Port Arthur is still unreachable. There's isolated flooding, knocked over trees and power lines are everywhere. Police and emergency crews haven't reached much of the city, but what they have seen by car and helicopter is, they say, mostly reassuring. A few structures down, but most are not. No reports yet of injury or death. Carl Adrianopoli is a FEMA official now in Port Arthur. He says he's been on countless disasters in his career. He rated Rita on a 10-point scale.

Mr. CARL ADRIANOPOLI (FEMA Official): A three and a four, a two and a three, something like that. Doesn't mean it's not going to cause a lot of difficulties in the area, but it's not going to come in and blow buildings away like we've seen.

DAVIDSON: For miles east of Port Arthur, there is damage everywhere. Signs blown off of fast-food restaurants, homes with parts of their roofs missing. Closer to Lake Charles, Louisiana, things get worse. Homes ripped in half are blown apart entirely, but again most structures are still standing and only have superficial damage.

(Soundbite of building's metal walls banging in wind)

DAVIDSON: In Sweet Lake, a small farming community southeast of Lake Charles, there's a lot of flooding. On one street, a building was ripped open and the metal walls bang in the wind. James Cox(ph) says he's barely had time to check out his farm.

Mr. JAMES COX: Yeah. And it all flooded. Can't find my bull, so I ain't looked for the cows yet. Ain't been able to get over there. I'm busy trying to take care of human needs.

DAVIDSON: Cox also runs the local water utility. He and his crew are driving all over town trying to turn valves off to stop some of the flooding. As we talk, Paul Watson, the head of the fire department, drives up. Cox tells him he doesn't want to talk about the damage to the town. He's just too busy. Watson says that's just the point.

Mr. PAUL WATSON: See, guys, we're here to talk about that. That's my whole point is we're here to talk about that damage that we're going to be able to repair. I love this community and we're going to bounce right on back.

Mr. COX: We've got to bounce on down the road, get back to work.

DAVIDSON: Cox says water should be on soon. Power's not likely to come back for a month. But, he says, this is an old Cajun town; most families have been here for many generations. They're going to come back. They've got nowhere else to go.

Adam Davidson, NPR News, Lafayette, Louisiana.

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