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Athletes keep eye on Katrina

The roof of the Louisiana Superdome is shredded by strong winds from Hurricane Katrina as it battered New Orleans on Monday.
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
The roof of the Louisiana Superdome is shredded by strong winds from Hurricane Katrina as it battered New Orleans on Monday. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Compiled from wire reports

Buffalo Bills receiver Eric Moulds’ home in Mississippi was in the direct path of Hurricane Katrina’s eye Monday.

“I have my text phone, so a lot of my friends back home are keeping in contact about what is going on,” said Moulds, whose house is 25 minutes away from Gulfport. “I’m anxious to get back in the locker room to see if I got any calls.”

Moulds’ mother, who lives in his house, and other family members were among the thousands who fled the region as Katrina moved inland.

“When they tell you not to go outside and to evacuate, people don’t realize that your life is in your hands,” Moulds said. “When you can see the winds actually pick up a car, you can understand how strong those 145 mph winds are.”

Moulds said it was difficult to concentrate during the practice, and was hopeful the damage in his home state would not be devastating.

“It’s hard to rebuild,” he said. “My prayers go out to the people down there because I know how tough it is to get through a hurricane.”

Also Monday, the New Orleans Saints practiced in San Jose, Calif., in preparation for their final preseason game against Oakland on Thursday night.

“The effort in practice today was good,” coach Jim Haslett said. “If we can deal with this, we’ll be a better football team in the long run.”

Punt returner Michael Lewis is a New Orleans native.

“I slept for only about an hour, if that,” Lewis said. “I watched about everything I could on TV.”

The Saints bought $5,000 worth of tickets to San Jose State’s season opener Saturday against Eastern Washington as a reward for being allowed to use the facilities. The tickets will be distributed to disadvantaged children.

In New Orleans, wind from Katrina ripped two holes in the roof of the Louisiana Superdome on Monday morning. The Tulane football team, which plays its home games there, escaped to Jackson, Miss., and hunkered down on the Jackson State campus.

The storm’s destruction resonated far beyond the delta. Detroit Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars was born, raised and went to college in Louisiana, and still has family there.

“This is the big one that we all grew up fearing,” he said.

Giants quarterback Eli Manning’s parents boarded up their home in Philadelphia, Miss., a few hundred miles north of New Orleans.

“I am worried,” Manning said. “Obviously you just have to wait and see what the damage is. I’ll call my parents later today and they’ll probably have a better feel for what’s going on. You just pray that people are OK and that the damage is not as bad as it can be.”

Falcons running back Warrick Dunn has a grandmother in Baton Rouge, La. She chose to sit out the storm instead of joining him in Atlanta.

“The only thing I can do is keep trying to call,” Dunn said. “No one in my family got on the highway. … The line has been busy. It kind of scares you a little bit.”

Texans running back Jonathan Wells’ entire family lives in New Orleans, but most made the 13-hour drive to Houston. He stayed up late on Sunday, as 15 relatives trickled in throughout the night.

“I got a lot of people down there so this is a troublesome time,” he said. “All we can do is pray and hope for the best.”

The Oklahoma RedHawks, the Texas Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate, welcomed the New Orleans Zephyrs on Monday night with a benefit to aid relief efforts.

Oklahoma decided to exchange tickets for bottled water. Any fan who shows up with a donation through Labor Day gets in for free.

RedHawks spokeswoman Laurie Gore said Oklahoma City can empathize with the areas battered by Katrina after the terrorist bombings in 1995.

“Oklahoma City has had a reputation for disaster,” Gore said. “We understand what it’s like, and we want to help. Our fans will want to help this team and that town.”

The team averages 7,500 fans a game, which means the RedHawks could end up shipping about 60,000 bottles of water to Zephyrs Field.

Because New Orleans is below sea level, residents who stayed put were at extreme risk. The Zephyrs left Sunday after canceling three games.

“They just can’t mess around,” Zephyrs manager Tim Foli said. “There’s nowhere to hide. That whole town could be underwater.”

LSU weathers storm

Welcome to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Les Miles. Your power is out, and you have your first game Saturday.

Like most Baton Rougeans, first-year football coach Les Miles was without electrical power in his home thanks to Hurricane Katrina, which roared through New Orleans.

“We’ve never had our power out before,” said Miles, an Elyria, Ohio, native who moved from Stillwater, Okla., with his wife and four young children last January to become the LSU coach.

Power may not be restored for three to five days or maybe longer, city officials said.

“We’ve never gone through something like this, but hey, that’s not the worst that’s happened to a lot of people,” said Miles, who previously lived no deeper south than Dallas.

Miles was referring to the widespread flooding, serious destruction, fires and massive power outages 87 miles southeast in New Orleans.

“We have a lot of players from New Orleans,” Miles said, “but we are encouraging them to stay and not get in harm’s way.”

LSU’s roster has more than two dozen players from the New Orleans area, including wide receivers Skyler Green and Craig Davis, safety LaRon Landry and tailback Shyrone Carey.

“We sent them home today and told them to hunker down,” Miles said. “Then we will resume practice (today).”

Miles broke from his routine Sunday and practiced that night, knowing he would not be able to on Monday.

The Tigers will work out at 3 p.m. today in preparation for their season opener at 7 p.m. Saturday in Tiger Stadium against North Texas.

The stadium, which is undergoing construction of a new west upper deck, sustained no visible damage.

“The stadium made it through the storm very well,” Yates Construction spokesman Kenny Bush said. “We’ll be rolling again soon.”

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