By Mike Brunker, msnbc.com writer
After being slammed and submerged by Katrina, few residents of New Orleans and its equally at-risk suburbs were willing to gamble with their lives as Gustav marched ashore.
By the time the winds picked up and the first raindrops began to fall Sunday evening, virtually the only humans on the streets were police, National Guard troops, private security guards and TV news crews.
Delia Labarre stands in the intersection of Bourbon and Iberville Streets Sunday afternoon in New Orleans, La. Credit: Jim Seida / msnbc.com
Among those few brave or foolhardy souls who appeared not to belong to any of those groups was Delia Labarre, a New Orleansian who took a break from her pre-curfew walk in the French Quarter to explain why she ignored Mayor Ray Nagin's mandatory evacuation order and an invitation from relatives in Texas to ride out the storm with them.
"I stayed because of my cat," she said. "She's a weird cat. She hisses and stuff."
In addition to not wanting to upset her pet, Labarre said she was confident Gustav wouldn't bring anything worse than Hurricane Katrina, which she rode out at home.
"This time I know what the building can take," she said.
Brenda Shoss of St. Louis, strolling the streets of New Orleans with her husband and son, said her presence also was attributable to pets.
She was in town to accept an award on behalf of a group she founded, KinshipCircle.com, for its work reuniting owners and pets after Katrina, when she heard about Nagin's evacuation order. This time, people leaving on city buses were allowed to bring their pets with them, so Shoss volunteered at Union Station to assure the animals and owners were well situated for the travel.
"We went from the awards ceremony to action mode," she said.
Ambling along Canal Street, Gerald Albert of New Orleans said he and several family members stayed behind because they were part of the skeleton staff that their employer – the Crown Plaza Hotel – asked to stay on through the storm.
Albert, who went through Katrina at home and emerged unscathed, marveled at the weird vibe of the silent streets, saying that it was different from the battlescape he experienced after Katrina.
"I left two days after Katrina and when I came home, it was like a ghost town," he said. "This is stranger."