With powerful Hurricane Ike still hundreds of miles away and on an uncertain course, residents on these low-lying islands weighed evacuation orders Sunday, perhaps a hint that Gulf Coast residents may not heed similar calls to leave.
Sunday's forecast had Ike crossing Cuba and headed into the Gulf of Mexico later this week. The Florida Keys were in an uncertain position, and Gulf Coast states even more so. In Texas and Louisiana, where people were just returning from the mass evacuation for a weaker-than-expected Gustav, officials already acknowledged that it may be difficult to get people mobilized again.
In Key West, many have their own formula for determining whether to leave. Even though evacuation orders became mandatory Sunday, traffic out of Key West was busy but not jammed.
Mike Tilson, 24, was in wait-and-see mode Sunday, stocking up his Key West houseboat with supplies. “I got tarps and champagne,” he said, pushing a wheelbarrow of supplies.
Though forecasts suggested the storm was headed into the Gulf, historically, most storms passing by Ike's position had curved northward.
Some New Orleans residents were already vowing not to evacuate again. David Myers, 39, a physician who rode out Gustav with relatives in Baton Rouge before returning home to New Orleans on Tuesday, said it would take a Category 4 or 5 storm to chase him away again. He expects many other residents who ran from Gustav to balk at evacuating for Ike.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said so-called “hurricane fatigue” should not prevent people there from leaving their homes for the second time in 10 days.
“We are likely going to have to become accustomed to evacuating more frequently than when we were younger,” he said.