Lost, Found, Then Lost at the Dome

Barbara Ann Cole and the 14 family members from New Orleans staying at her house were awakened at 3 a.m. Friday by a phone call from the Astrodome.

Her 81-year-old mother, missing since Monday, was safe, said the caller, a nurse checking in evacuees arriving by bus. And so was her mother's beloved Shih Tzu, Cookie.

The family rejoiced. "Aunt Peggy's alive! Aunt Peggy's alive!" everyone screamed with relief.

But when Cole and a cousin arrived at the Astrodome at 7 a.m. to pick her up, they realized that finding the elderly woman was going to be a lot harder than they imagined. "We walked up and down the aisles of the dome, but we can't find her," Cole said. They asked a volunteer to make sure an announcement went out over the loudspeaker. But so far, no Peggy Cole.

Barbara Ann Cole, a lawyer, said she called her mother at her home in a high-lying neighborhood of New Orleans seven times last Sunday and begged her to leave before the hurricane touched down. "She said, 'I have a plan,' " her daughter recalled. " 'I'm not afraid.' "

But they lost contact when the electricity failed Monday. Cole said she has no idea how her mother got to Houston. By yesterday afternoon she had, however, rescued Cookie, who was safely in the arms of a volunteer for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which was checking in pets.

As of late Friday, her mother is still missing in the mass of humanity on the floor of the Astrodome.

-- Lisa Rein

Texas Krewe to Feed Refugees

In this corner of east Texas that is heavily influenced by the Cajun culture in neighboring Louisiana, the chief social organization in many small towns is the "krewe" -- that is, a group of people who get together to march in Mardi Gras parades the night before Lent begins each spring.

"The whole point of a krewe is to have fun," said Sabrina Gray, who runs the Krewe Des Amis de la Rue ("Friends of the Street") in the city, which sits on the border of the two states.

"And in fact, we were planning to have fun this weekend. We had organized a toga party with a huge barbecue in the park for Saturday night."

That, however, was before people fleeing the misery of New Orleans began showing up in Orange. The plans had to change.

"And then these poor people who have lost everything came into our town. So as president of the krewe, I made a presidential decision: We're not going to have a toga party. We're going to barbecue that meat and feed these people. It was a no-brainer."

-- T.R. Reid

A Hospital's Hurricane Party

Riding out the storm and its aftermath at the Tulane University Medical Center wasn't all that bad, genetics researcher Benjamin Larson said Friday on the airport tarmac after being airlifted to safety.

"Most of the time, we were drunk and having a good time," Larson said, smoking a cigarette in his green hospital scrubs. After the first few days, they finished the liquor they had brought to fortify themselves and searched for a chaser.

"We were out of alcohol. We were getting pretty desperate," Larson said. "We were drinking lab ethanol. And everyone became a smoker."

Electrical power went out during the storm and emergency generators quit within a couple of days, leaving research projects without their needed refrigeration.

"All the research labs, no power. They're shot. All those years of research. Shot," said Larson, a doctoral candidate. "My boss said he'd pay anything to get some liquid nitrogen in there."

-- Peter Slevin