There was less pomp because of the circumstances.

With red, white and blue balloons hanging from the Xcel Energy Center's rafters and a newly created hurricane information center pulsing with activity in the lobby, the abbreviated opening of the Republican National Convention in St. Paul took on a somber tone Monday.

Speeches by First Lady Laura Bush and Cindy McCain, wife of presumptive presidential nominee John McCain, brought delegates to their feet, but speeches by President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were canceled. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist was left to send a video greeting with palms blowing heavily behind him.

What remained was the official opening business: reports from credentials committees, establishing that a quorum is present, approval of the party platform, naming permanent chairmen.

In Denver last week, the first day of the Democratic convention included the adoption of rules but also featured speeches by Michelle Obama and ailing Sen. Teddy Kennedy that set a tone for the week.

The GOP convention was gaveled to order at 2:39 p.m. Monday and temporarily adjourned less than an hour later, then resumed later to announce committee assignments and credentials rulings, adjourning for the day shortly after 5 p.m.

But not before Hurricane Gustav was given its due.

"When one of us is threatened, we're all threatened," said Republican National Committee Chairman Robert (Mike) Duncan. "As Americans we rise to the challenge. We unite, we respond and we take care of our own. As we go forward, please keep your fellow countrymen in your thoughts and prayers."

To that end, large TV screens encouraged participants to open up their cell phones to text message a $5 donation to the American Red Cross. Cindy McCain and Laura Bush would later stand in front of a massive screen listing hurricane relief charities.

Florida delegate Lew Oliver said his delegation is keenly aware of the threat of dramatic weather in the Gulf. If it turns out the damage is light, momentum for the convention can be reignited later in the week.

"One of the great strengths of America is we don't sit and wallow in stuff for long periods of time," he said. "We shouldn't. The fact is you pick yourself up, you get back on the horse and you go on."

Missouri delegate Patricia Thomas said the opening of the convention is always the stuff of great expectations: a call to unity, a constitutional duty to elect a nominee.

"You can't predict things like weather and we all need to be mindful of our fellow Americans, but constitutionally, we have a duty. We'll remain very flexible and we'll continue to think about the safety of others," she said.

Minnesota delegate Pat Anderson, a former state auditor, said events to the south put the order of the day in perspective. "It may put a slight damper on today's ceremony. I don't think you'll be seeing that over the next couple of days," she said. "We all know where the priorities are, they are certainly not here right now, seating delegates is kind of mundane business."

Mark Brunswick • 651-222-1636