By Charles Hadlock, NBC News
At dawn's first light, the devastation from Hurricane Ike is becoming clear.
The Hilton Hotel here in Clear Lake, Texas, where we've set up our satellite truck to report on the storm, is taking a beating.
The stucco facade on the front of the building peeled away during the early hours of the storm. Of course, it smashed into NBC cameraman Mike Terrel's truck, which had just gotten out of the shop from Hurricane Dolly damage.
The hotel lobby looks like a scene out of the Poseidon Adventure. The plexiglass atrium ceiling came crashing down at about 2:30 in the morning. I had just finished giving a live report on MSNBC and stepped back into the darkened lobby to dry off. I had a towel to my face when I heard a loud popping sound above. Without looking, I ran for a corner of the room. A huge sheet of plexiglass landed right where I had been standing. I think I was safer outside the hotel. The lobby is filled with insulation and debris. Two giant chandeliers sway perilously above, whipped by the Ike's winds now gusting through the building.
For a time, the lobby (above) was in danger of being flooded by the rising storm surge on Galveston Bay. The first floor of the hotel, below the lobby, was inundated with water that slowly crept up the stairs toward the hotel lobby. The water got to eight steps away from flooding the lobby when the winds swung around from the north and west and pushed the tidal surge away just in time.
A marina behind our hotel (photo above) had more than 20 boats tied up along wooden piers on Clear Lake last night.
This morning, the piers are gone; and so are most of the boats.