After spending hours in traffic that backed up for 10 miles, some residents found their homes in ruins.
"I wasn't prepared for this," taxi driver Patricia Davis said as she waved away mosquitoes and surveyed the remains of her apartment, which had its entrance blocked by collapsed walls, wrecked furniture and sodden clothing.
City officials hoped most of the 45,000 residents who fled before the Sept. 13 storm would stay away until more repairs could be made.
"We didn't promise paradise when you came back here. We've got a lot of work to do. You've got a lot of work to do," City Manager Steve LeBlanc said Wednesday.
The city has limited drinking water, few working sewers, limited electricity and minimal medical facilities. Officials extended the disaster declaration for 90 days.