AUSTIN (KXAN) — Friday’s forecast and cold front adds urgency to the search for a veteran missing since Sunday.
On this Veterans Day, more volunteers joined the search effort for Paull “Pepper” Patterson.
Police say the 76-year-old disappeared from Colonial Gardens, a memory care assisted living facility in North Austin.
It’s changed Laurel Patterson’s routine this week; she’s been out every day, armed with flyers and flanked by friends, searching for her dad.
After issuing a call for more help with KXAN on Thursday, she said about 20 people showed up to help Friday morning.
“Overwhelming response, people I’ve never met before that just live in the neighborhood,” Patterson said. “We ran out of flyers. It was a really amazing turnout.”
The search started in North Austin, the area of the memory care facility.
“We’ve gotten a few tips in last night saying that he might have taken a bus down to South Park Meadows and Manchaca, like Ben White area. So, we’ve been down here this morning as well,” Patterson said.
She thinks Paull may have joined some food distribution lines or gone to homeless encampments for shelter.
Patterson connected with Carol Rawson with Harvest Blessings Food Pantry at Travis Heights Christian Outreach.
“His face looks so familiar. I wish I would have seen him today,” Rawson said.
Rawson said her group feeds over 300 people at their distribution every Monday and Friday. She said this is the hardest time of year for people on the street, as cold temperatures set in.
“You can see that the line is long. They’re looking to get food and also to find a safe and dry place to shelter,” Rawson said.
Brandon Goering, a search technician with Texas Search and Rescue, said the weather heightens the urgency of a situation like this.
“Right off the bat with the cognitive impairment, there is an emergency at hand. And then with the changing weather, with any of these other factors, it becomes increasingly important to respond quickly and effectively,” he said.
He said TEXSAR, an all-volunteer group, only deploys when asked by law enforcement and so far, they haven’t been called for Patterson’s search.
Austin Police said they’re working with the Travis County Search and Rescue Team.
Goering said said they group missing people into behavior categories based on several factors, including cognitive and physical ability.
“And with that, there are tens of thousands of cases that have been researched and the numbers crunched, and they usually fall into patterns which we can follow and apply to our searches,” he explained.
One category includes people who have a cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s or dementia.
“They tend to travel in straight lines, they tend to regress then and want to go back into their past, they tend to push far into brush because they have some sort of tunnel vision that they just want to push straight ahead,” he said.
Goering also said there’s a positive trend for the group that offers hope.
“They don’t often have a concept of the emergency that they are involved in, so they tend to not panic, and their survivability rate is actually increased over many of the other lost person groups,” he said.
Patterson is finding hope in gaining ground, and numbers.
“Just from homeless people all the way to store owners to people that I’ve worked with, complete strangers — everyone has just really jumped in to help and it’s… restored faith… in community,” Patterson said.
Patterson is organizing another big search for her dad on Saturday.
The group will meet at the HEB off Parmer and Mopac, on the east side of the parking lot near the Mopac frontage road.
Patterson said her car will be marked by balloons.
She said groups will be sent to North Austin as well as South Austin.
If you see Paull, you are asked to call 911 immediately.