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As Hurricane Rita Closes in, Baylor s Richard Gibbs is Last to Leave His Ship

NEW YORK, Sept. 22 (GenomeWeb News) - As Hurricane Rita takes aim at the Texas coast, academic centers in its projected path are taking precautions, and evacuating.


GenomeWeb News caught up with Richard Gibbs, director of the HumanGenomeSequencingCenterat Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, this morning as he was preparing to leave. "We just shut down the [sequencing] instruments," he said, while samples will be protected by emergency power. "The center has been shut down."


"Most people left last night," Gibbs said, adding that he was the only person left at the center this morning after a colleague took off a few minutes earlier.


Baylor College of Medicine, which is closed according to its web site, has been hit by storms before. Tropical Storm Allison in 2001, which "came out of nowhere," according to Gibbs, caused extensive damage, including a loss of 40,000 animals, he said. The sequencing center, however, which is located on the 14th to 16th floors, was able to avoid damage, and only saw a "small dip" in its production as a result of the storm.


In the wake of Allison, the Federal Emergency Management Agency allocated $2.7 million for flood protection measures in 2004 at BCM's facilities in the TexasMedicalCenter, including the elevation of electrical equipment and classroom facilities.


"This time though, when we are better prepared, we may lose more production," Gibbs said, depending on the path of the hurricane, which is due to reach land on Saturday morning. "In the worst case, there will be physical damage around the medical center, and we will be closed for two weeks," he said. "In the best case, we will be open again on Monday."


Baylor College of Medicine has a core staff of approximately 30 people who will stay throughout the storm to run emergency operations, he said. Gibbs himself, whose family has already left town, plans to drive out tonight.

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