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Hurricane Katrina

When home is a dome, anxiety is a way of life

Associated Press
Published September 6, 2005

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Multimedia: Continuing fallout
Storm Watch blog

HOUSTON - Some lessons learned by the new inhabitants of the Astrodome:

--It is pointless to wait for the stark stadium lights to go out at lights out. (Or, for that matter, to expect one's neighbors to cease sobbing, giggling, gabbing or wailing during the wee hours.)

--It is not a good idea to allow children to wander out of sight for even a moment - unless four hours of continuous searching is in your plans.

--It is not recommended to leave cots unguarded. (They tend to disappear.)

Likewise, it is inadvisable to leave one's clothes on the wall peg outside the showers.

Torres Smith, 42, did, and "they stole them," he says. "All of my clothes. I had to walk out on the stadium floor with a towel around my waist, go to the table where they were giving out free clothes and get some new ones."

Of course, to many who lived the horror of the Superdome in New Orleans last week, this old baseball stadium feels like the Taj Mahal.

It has lukewarm showers; 85 toilets that actually flush; hot grits, pancakes in the morning, Cajun dinners served on plastic foam trays at night; an operating air conditioner; complimentary socks, Twinkies, baby formula, flip-flops, tampons, toothpaste, Bermudas (with the big, stylish pockets), and Tom Wolfe and James Lee Burke paperbacks.

Most important, perhaps, it has a contingent of 500 uniformed, Texas lawmen who stroll the concourses, ramps and stands in white Stetsons to make sure people behave.

A Red Cross volunteer put Smith's name on a list for free and subsidized housing and a new job. Otherwise, he says, it's always the same routine.

"I got to get back to work. I'll do anything: cut grass, wash window, wax floors. ... I don't want to be here any more than two, three months."

[Last modified September 6, 2005, 03:15:21]

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