Update from New Orleans
I spent last weekend in New Orleans, attending a friend's wedding in the French Quarter. The Quarter itself is high and dry, with Cafe du Monde serving beignets in the morning and Bourbon Street hopping at night. The stores near the French Market do have hurricane-related T-shirts ("FEMA: Fix Everything My Ass" and "NOPD: Not Our Problem, Dude" -- plus my favourite: "Federal Evacuation Plan: Run, Bitch, Run") but otherwise, the Vieux Carre shows no signs of Katrina.
The rest of the city is another matter. Since we had no car we ended up getting a taxi tour, which included the Ninth Ward, Gentilly, and the Lakeview & UNO neighborhoods. They're a mess. The Ninth is every bit as bad as you've heard, with street after street of ruin, no street lights, houses gutted, and waterlines above head height (mine, not just Saheli's). And on every house there is the ubiquitous spray-painted X from the search teams, the lower quadrant of which has the number of bodies found. We mostly saw zeros, mercifully. The area by Lakeview is more rebuilt, with many of the wealthier homes there showing signs of recent reconstruction and looking very liveable.
Today is the official start of hurricane season (whatever that really means) and the levees aren't done. Almost nobody is moving back to the Ninth Ward and other hard-hit areas because you'd have to be nuts to take a chance on this not happening again. It's hard to believe it's been nine months since Katrina, especially when looking at the state NO is still in. All I can say is good luck, Big Easy. Hope you don't meet any of her friends.