NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - In 2008, Hurricane Gustav initiated one of the most effective evacuations of Southeast Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast on record. The horrors of Katrina and Rita were still fresh in our minds, but more than 10 years later, that memory is a bit more distant. The levee system is greatly improved and a lot of new people live in the evacuation zones.
Will we respond the same way, or is complacency and a false sense of security taking over?
The new and improved levee system gets a vote of confidence from Thomas Cojoe.
"I'm moving back to the Ninth Ward for the first time since 1965," he said. He's excited to return to the neighborhood where he grew up and expects his property to be safe. "Yes, I am very comfortable moving to the Ninth Ward."
Yet he still plans to evacuate. He's influenced by the trying times right after Katrina.
"I was living on the west bank and they didn't get too much water there just a lot of building damages," Cojoe said. "If you never believed in God in your life, that was a time to believe."
Memories pushed more than a million people to gather their families and belongings and move away from the coast when Category Two Hurricane Gustav threatened.
"After Katrina, I think it was a rude awakening for a lot of people because we had that armor of protection for years," Pamela Everage said.
Everage speaks to what we now see as the false security provided by the aged and failed levees. The previous devastation led more people than ever before to err on the side of caution, packing vehicles and taking advantage of the new city-assisted evacuation.
"They weren't sure if they were going to come back," Dr. Charles Figley said. "They weren't really sure if the city was going to be there when they did return."
Figley is the Director of Traumatology at the Tulane School of Social Work. He said Gustav was an amazing real-world case study.
"Most people agree that's one of the most efficient and effective evacuations because people were scared. The most important thing when you evacuate is the assurance that you can return and that you can return when you want to," he said.
"The job quality is not good in the New Orleans area," said retired nurse Nellie Wilson.
While she and her family plan to evacuate, she also knows people in the community who have a harder time deciding to leave due to financial concerns.
"Our job quality here is about restaurants, mostly and hotels and they don't pay," she said.
The city-assisted evacuation helps.
"Colonel Sneed says once you signed up, you all right. Just go to one of those designated areas where they pick you up."
While every person we spoke to said they will evacuate, Figley said there is a special group that just will not go. He said it's up to officials, media, family and friends to break that denial.
"We delude ourselves daily in terms of danger and the importance of what we are doing," Figley said.
"Take precautions, and take it seriously," Everage said. "It's not a joking matter. Know if you are in an evacuation zone and if so have an evacuation plan that the whole family can agree upon."