"They can cancel 24 hours in advance," Rolfe said. "This thing can turn a different way and it's all over with. We're not banking on it yet."
It's a similar story in Memphis, about a 400-mile drive north of New Orleans.
At the Marriott downtown, all 604 guest rooms are sold out. A reservation agent said people are booking rooms for seven to 10 days, and some people are booking blocks of 10 to 15 rooms at a time.
Despite promises from the state government and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that Katrina's sordid aftermath won't be repeated, New Orleans residents of all stripes are nervous, and experts say they have every right to be.
One indication of how seriously everyone is taking the storm is that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is already in New Orleans, where this morning he told "Good Morning America" that he plans to survey the infamous Industrial Canal and the 17th Street Canal pumping station.
"What you'll see is the product of three years of planning, training and exercising it at all levels of government," Chertoff told "GMA." "We're clearly better prepared."
For forecasters and frightened locals alike, the comparison between Katrina and Gustav was immediate. Both storms are moving more slowly than is typical, and like Katrina before it, Gustav is expected to move over a warm patch of air in the Gulf of Mexico that will likely take it from Category 1 (rough) to Category 3 (devastating).
"All the models are suggesting that this thing is going to accelerate as it's nearing the Gulf of Mexico. ... Right now, Gustav is not a large storm, but that could change by the way," said Louisiana state climatologist Barry Keim. "All people concerned are keeping an eye on it."
The hurricane is expected to make landfall somewhere on the Gulf Coast on Tuesday.
But it's not just the meteorological similarities; the timing of the storm doesn't ease residents' minds either. Today is the third anniversary of the day the mighty hurricane left this Southern city destroyed, and organizers are scrambling to put the finishing touches on a memorial to its victims.
"For me, I couldn't really sleep yesterday," Angelique Valteau, a 27-year-old nurse who lives in the city's Gentilly neighborhood, told ABCNews.com.
Unlike Smith, Valteau did evacuate during Katrina, but instead of staying with her cousin in Baton Rouge for a week as she'd intended, she ended up temporarily moving to Long Island, N.Y. When she returned, she found the home that she had recently purchased decimated.
This time around, Valteau sees a city -- both its government and its residents -- being more proactive when it comes to planning.
"I think people are trying to be prepared. I think people do have a personal plan, and if they don't, they're definitely working on getting one," she said. "But I think the city is nervous. People are anxious, definitely."
This time around, city and state leaders are trying to clear up the non-responsive, disorganized reputation they earned around the country in Katrina's aftermath. This week, both Louisiana and Mississippi declared states of emergency when Gustav was still a tropical storm.