Today I'm traveling back from New Orleans to North Carolina via Birmingham. I stopped in at the main Red Cross shelter for Gustav evacuees that's been erected at the city's Civic Center to see how people were holding up.

Over 3,400 evacuees were brought up from Louisiana to 10 shelters in Birmingham, and many more came in their own cars. Cars with Louisiana plates are packed underneath the expressway running through town.

The Civic Center shelter seemed to be going smoothly, but everyone -- the Red Cross operators, dozens of volunteers and of course the people living there -- was visibly worn down.

Most of all, people were frustrated that they couldn't get back home. In south Louisiana, all but hard-hit Terrebonne and Plaquemines parishes have ended mandatory evacuations and residents are allowed to return. But those who were evacuated by FEMA buses have no say, held hostage wherever the buses and trains took them -- and FEMA has made no announcement as to when they'll be taking residents back.

"I'm leaving tonight -- I don't care how I get down there, I'm getting out of here," one older woman told me. "We haven't heard ANYTHING about when we're getting back," a man with his young son told me.

By all accounts, the evacuation out of New Orleans went smoothly, in stark contrast to Katrina. The fear now is that, if that a frustrating and chaotic return policy will cause people may shun FEMA-run evacuation services next time -- and the Gulf Coast will be right back to where it was with Katrina.