|By Stephen J. Lee, Grand Forks Herald, N.D.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Sep. 2, 2005 - The Imperial Palace Mississippi hotel and casino in Biloxi, Miss., weathered Hurricane Katrina better than the rest of the dozen hotel/casinos in the Gulf city and is being used by FEMA as a headquarters in disaster relief.
The Imperial is owned by the family of the late Ralph Engelstad, the Thief River Falls native who built casinos in Las Vegas and Biloxi, as well as the hockey arenas in Grand Forks and Thief River Falls.
Mississippi law requires that all casinos are on the water, so the Imperial's "land-based," 1,100-room, 32-story hotel is linked by ramps to the casino on a barge on Biloxi's back bay, said Jeremy Handel, public relations director for the Imperial Palace in Las Vegas.
The hurricane damaged the exterior of the hotel, and the ramps between the casino and hotel snapped as they are designed to do in a bad storm, Handel said. The casino's exterior appears to be little damaged, he said, but the full extent of the damage isn't known yet.
The casino and hotel were closed by state order over the weekend and all guests evacuated.
"We are trying to reach all our employees, and making sure that everyone is OK," Handel said. "There is a lack of communication. We have had some contact. Some of our engineers and staff have gone down there to see what they can find."
Meanwhile, members of the Federal Emergency Management Agency have set up shop in the Imperial's hotel, Handel said.
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Copyright (c) 2005, Grand Forks Herald, N.D.
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