NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 2, 2008 -- Conditions in some of the shelters opened to handle the nearly 2 million people who fled Hurricane Gustav have made some evacuees reevaluate their decision to leave their homes in the first place.
At a former Sam's Club in Shreveport, La., that was turned into a shelter for 2,800 people who were bused there, frustrations have reached a boiling point.
The bathrooms at the impromptu shelter are located in the parking lot and there are no showers. For many, a cot is hard to come by.
"I will go lay in the middle of the street and get me a blanket and pillow," one evacuee said. "That's how hard it is."
The residents of the shelter were driven to a nearby school today so they could bathe -- for the first time in four days.
"They've got to bring us somewhere better," one evacuee said. "I'm going to start to cry."
Local officials said that the state has failed to provide enough food and showers for evacuees, forcing the city of Shreveport to foot the bill.
"There were some plans that were laid forth that in my evaluation that didn't receive the evaluation and scrutiny that they should have," Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover said. "The state is running facilities that simply are not adequate."
Hospitals Could Still Have to Evacuate
Although the state has already executed the largest medical evacuation in U.S. history, an additional 800 patients in Louisiana hospitals may have to be evacuated in the next few days, a governor's office spokesman told The Associated Press today.
Trey Williams, a spokesman for Louisiana's Gov. Bobby Jindal, cited lack of air conditioning as a reason for the evacuation of 12 hospitals across the state.
An additional seven nursing homes may still need to be evacuated, said Williams. The city of New Orleans could be reopened to citizens Thursday at the earliest.
President Bush also announced that he would be visiting the storm-wracked state Wednesday.
Earlier today, Jindal told evacuated residents that they would be safer in makeshift shelters for the time being rather than trying to return home, citing a lack of electricity, fuel and medical personnel.
Jindal said residents could return within days, but officials need to first ensure that debris has been cleared and essentials, including gas and power, are back on.
Just one day after Hurricane Gustav passed over Louisiana, largely sparing New Orleans, some 1.4 million homes remain without electricity.
The governor said state and federal authorities would coordinate with local officials to determine when parishes were safe enough for residents to return and begin the cleanup.
"When it comes to re-entry we defer to local leadership. Local parishes will determine when it's safe, and they will be announcing a tiered return of residents," Jindal said.
Echoing New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, Jindal said, "Starting Wednesday, we will have our businesses…get set up and then sometime Thursday or Friday, it's my hope, that if things continue to go well, our citizens will come back."
The governor said new shelters would be established closer to the evacuated cities, so residents whose homes were damaged could live nearby as they rebuild.
Monday evening Hurricane Gustav passed through downtown New Orleans and as the rains began to recede, Nagin breathed a sigh of relief, telling evacuated residents eager to return home that this time around, "re-entry is only days away, not weeks away."
"The city of New Orleans is not totally out of the woods, but we're getting close," Nagin said. The mandatory evacuation order, however, remained in place, he said, as was the dusk-to-dawn curfew.
The mayor said he hoped to begin welcoming citizens back to New Orleans late Wednesday or Thursday but would not finalize those plans until a fuller assessment of how much damage the city had endured could be carried out.
To keep people away, Interstate 10 and 55 remain closed this morning, and roadblocks remain in place.
For the estimated 2 million people who evacuated coastal Louisiana, a return home cannot come soon enough.
Hurricane Gustav Still a Flood Threat
Gustav had pretty much blown itself out by this morning. The National Hurricane Center said the once fearsome Category 4 hurricane, which moved ashore as a Category 2, was now little more than a tropical depression, but it warned that Gustav still carried a flooding threat. It's now traveling about 135 miles northwest of Lafayette and has winds of 35 mph.
Speaking to city residents waiting impatiently for the go-ahead to return home, Nagin warned against rushing back to New Orleans today.
"[Tuesday] is not a day for you to come back to the city of New Orleans," he said.
Today will be a "day of assessment and repair," said the mayor, and Wednesday -- provided all goes well -- companies and retailers will be allowed back into the city to assess their stores and stock up for the residents' arrival.
For the most part, New Orleans' shaky levees appear to have held. Water ominously churned and splashed over the top of the Industrial Canal for hours Monday, but unlike what happened during Hurricane Katrina three years ago, the levee did not fail.
"I was hoping this would happen," said Nagin of the apparent success of the levees. "I feel really good about it, and it proves the city can handle a Category 3 storm."
Trees and power lines are strewn on city streets and the sewer system, according to Nagin, is not "fully functional." He said it would take at least 24 hours to get an assessment of the damage to the sewer system and to get it working again.
There are also several buildings around the city that the mayor said appear to have structural damage.
"We're not quite ready for citizens to come back," warned Nagin, visibly calmer than he'd appeared in the days leading up to the storm.
The storm knocked out power to 107,000 customers in the city, but across the region more then 1 million homes remain powerless.
There have been two arrests associated with the storm, New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Warren Riley said. That number is in stark contrast to what happened after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, when crime -- especially looting -- was a big problem. Since Gustav hit, one person was arrested for allegedly breaking into a gas station and another for allegedly trying to steal gas, Riley said.
New Orleans Mayor Warns Evacuees Not to Come Home Yet
When asked whether he believed the low number of arrests during the storm was a "victory," Nagin said that while he wouldn't use those words exactly, he is certain number said a lot about the citizens of New Orleans.
The New Orleans Fire Department reported having responded to 75 calls since midnight Sunday, including one large fire they said was caused by a stubborn resident who tried to hook up a generator to his apartment building rather than evacuate.
Nagin said that evacuees would return to the city in the same way they left -- on buses and trains provided by the city.
"Buses are in place and ready to bring citizens back," Nagin said.
The return of the evacuees will be done in phases, the mayor said, but he did not go into further detail about what that meant.
Those citizens who were evacuated may even be treated to door-to-door service, according to Nagin, who said that evacuees will be boarded back onto buses when they reach Union Station in New Orleans. The buses will take them "as close to their homes and neighborhoods as possible," he said.
When asked whether he oversold the severity of the storm, Nagin said he would not do anything differently.
"Well, maybe instead of calling [the hurricane] the 'mother of all storms,'" he said, "I'd call it the 'mother-in-law' or 'ugly stepsister' of all storms."The Associated Press and ABC's Russell Goldman contributed to this report.