Communities usually don't come to these conclusions until after the big disaster hits - as was the case with Miami and South Florida, where I live, in the wake of Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Today, when a major storm approaches Miami, the buses are out and the shutters are up—I put mine up twice last summer for hurricanes I knew probably weren't even going to strike. I saw little evidence of that preparedness along the Gulf coast; few houses had strongly-shuttered windows, and evacuation busses, according to residents, were in short supply. "It's just the New Orleans mentality," one Orleanian, who had evacuated, told me this week as he returned into the deserted city to survey its annihilation, "to think they can ride out anything. It's almost like a challenge—like if they hear of the seediest bar, they want to go to it."
South Floridians, especially the hardy, beach-bum individualists in places like the Keys—like Lionel Barrymore's defiant character in the hurricane classic Key Largo, who like James Mosley was wheelchair-bound—used to share that cultural machismo. But when a storm like Katrina moves in these days, people in the Keys, even the poor, are usually seen moving out. It may not look cowboy brave—but it's citizen smart.