Hurricane evacuees anxious to return home

September 2, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Two million anxious evacuees are clamoring to return home now that Hurricane Gustav has passed. Officials spent the day assessing the damage ? downed trees, no electricity, and water and sewer systems have been knocked out. The insurance industry estimates Gustav could trigger up to $10 billion in claims.

In New Orleans, levees kept low-lying neighborhoods from flooding, but utility companies are still working to restore power to 1.4 million customers.

President Bush plans to visit the Gulf Coast on Wednesday. He will make several stops in Louisiana.

It will be at least another day before residents are allowed to return.

Earlier in the week, Mayor Ray Nagin described the hurricane as the mother of all hurricanes. On Tuesday, the mayor downgraded its status, calling it the "ugly sister-in-law."

The city of New Orleans is very empty, save for police, national guard and a few hearty souls who remained through Hurricane Gustav. It is also a city of twisted metal, bent trees and assorted debris, but not water. Water has remained behind the levees.

"Water is everything. It will ruin everything," said resident Jennifer Rual.

"I had 21 family members in for Katrina and they floated in a boat for a week before they got rescued," said resident Paul Rual. "They said they would never stay again."

But as Gustav squalled away, many New Orleans residents hoped to return. Lines of cars stretched to the north, east, and west, navigating obstacle courses of detours and delays. Part of Interstate 10 was closed due to downed power lines. Interstate 55 was backed up for miles. It is all part of Louisiana's Gustav hangover.

Pick any community to the southeast and it is a carbon copy. In Lafayette, the view of an old oak tree seemed symbolic for the remnants of this hurricane and what it left behind.

"This big branch missed the house by what seems to be inches," said a resident.

As of Tuesday, more than a million people still have no power. Most businesses remain closed and fresh food and fuel remain scarce.

But the most lasting image may be that of Jerry Jordan, who we shot video of the day before while he was mowing the lawn in front of a house that had been boarded up against Gustav.

"We stayed. We rode it out," said Jordan.

On Tuesday the plywood came down and there, at least, Gustav became a part of history, like so many hurricanes before.

"It's over. Over. Got another one coming in about a week," said Jordan.

There have been 10 tropical depressions this year. That is already the average for any hurricane season which runs six months. They are saying they may have 14 or 15 this year.


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