Mayor Ray Nagin is rolling out the welcome mat for Texans seeking shelter from Hurricane Ike.
In a reversal of fortunes, thousands of Texas residents are headed across the state line as the storm -- expected make landfall as a Category 3 hurricane -- bears down on Galveston and neighboring communities.
No shelters are open in New Orleans, but Nagin said thousands of hotel rooms are available to accommodate evacuees.
"Just ask for the Mayor Ray Nagin special rate," Nagin said. "I guarantee you're going to get one of the best rates you've ever gotten in the city of New Orleans. We're ready for you to come, to take care of you like you've taken care of us."
While the wisdom of Houstonians and Galvestonians driving east when the storm itself is one day away and might actually be tracking east seemed meteorologically unsound to us, we picked up the phone to see what the long-suffering night staff of some of the city's hotels might know about the Mayor Ray Nagin Special Rate.
First stop: the Ritz-Carlton New Orleans, where just before Hurricane Gustav the mayor picked up his Excellence in Recovery Award. The Ritz's local reservation line was closed for the night, and the call got kicked to a central Ritz-Carlton booking agent, who somehow knew nothing of the Mayor Ray Nagin Special Rate.
Nor was the reservationist at the Holiday Inn French Quarter aware of this magnanimous mayoral discount. "The Ray Nagin rate?" he said.
"For the hurricane? Hurricane Ike?"
"Well, let me see," he said. After a while on hold, he came back. "Sorry, we don't have a hurricane special," he said. "We do have a king room, non-smoking, for $129."
"Nothing in a Nagin rate?"
"No," he said, regret in his voice. Then he brightened. "But do you have Triple A or an AARP card?"