Gustav Evacuees Eager To Return Home Hurricane Gustav forced the evacuation of almost 2 million people and now they all want to go home. That is a problem because much of southeast Louisiana is not yet habitable. Streets are littered with debris and medical service is limited.
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Gustav Evacuees Eager To Return Home

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Gustav Evacuees Eager To Return Home

Gustav Evacuees Eager To Return Home

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Across Louisiana coasts, Hurricane Gustav forced nearly 2 million people to evacuate.

NPR's John Burnett met some of them on their way back home and found them in a generally cranky mood.

JOHN BURNETT: The Jones family has just had it. All 10 of them fled to Baton Rouge, only to have to have the storm roar through the state capital and knock out power at the Motel 6, where they were staying. Now that beleaguered officials in New Orleans and neighboring cities have relented to residents demanding to return, today the Joneses are driving home to Harvey, just across the river from New Orleans.

Mr. JORNELL JONES(ph) (Evacuee): Well, I wanted to get out of here because basically, we've been sitting in the dark now for three days. If I'm going to sit in the dark, I can do it at home.

BURNETT: Jornell Jones is a tow-truck driver. His wife, Nicole, is a nurse. She sits in their silver pickup with the motor idling.

Mr. JONES: It's been very expensive every time you have mandatory evacuation. You can run anywhere from 500 to a couple of grand, you know, because of the fact of the hotel room being so expensive. You have to eat out. There's no more home-cooked meals. You got to do everything, basically, out of the bag.

Ms. NICOLE JONES (Evacuee): It catches you off-guard. If a hurricane comes - a lot of people don't have money. I mean, you know, people live check to check, so it's expensive. I mean, what do you do? If you don't have it, you have to do without. Some people sleep in their cars. So it's a bad experience.

BURNETT: The evacuation experiences of Katrina, Gustav, all the storms before, and those to come after, have made the Joneses question whether it's all worth it, even though they're both natives and love their home.

Ms. JONES: We're thinking about going to another state because we can't keep this going. You know, we can't do this. I don't have a problem with it. But when we leave, when we come, it's just too hard on us. We don't have support.

BURNETT: On the other end of the scale, some people get annoyed they have to evacuate for storms, like Gustav, that turn out to be minor. Wayne Hingle(ph) is a retired orange farmer from Belle Chase in Plaquemines Parish just below New Orleans. He sits in his silver Jeep Commando in a long line of cars, waiting for his turn at a Shell station outside Baton Rouge.

How long have you been in line?

Mr. WAYNE HINGLE (Evacuee): Not long, about maybe 15 minutes. Plus, I've been to about four different places. They move up. They don't - so they don't get everybody aggravated.

BURNETT: Hingle and his wife fled to his daughter's home in Brule(ph), down river from Baton Rouge. After he fills up, he's going home today too.

Mr. HINGLE: And every day, every time, we say, we're not doing this again. We're not doing this again. We were prepared to stay. We have two generators. We had all our gas. We had, you know, and - but they kind of scared the heck out of everybody, saying there was going to be 18 feet of water down there. I'm just, I'm thinking, next time they say 18 feet of water or anything less than that, they're going to have a problem with people, because Plaquemine Parish didn't flood at all.

BURNETT: No wonder people are in a bad humor. Mandatory evacuations are a lose-lose equation. If the storm is bad, people are upset because their property gets damaged. If the storm isn't so bad, they're angry they had to leave in the first place. You never win with a hurricane.

John Burnett, NPR News, Baton Rouge.

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