SMACK! Mixed signals add new level of aggravation By Matt Kelley, USA TODAY NEW ORLEANS Frazzled and frustrated residents prepared Tuesday for the possibility of another hurricane, saying they're sick of mixed signals from federal, state and local leaders about whether to stay or go. "I'm just tired," Shandried Baxter, 30, said as she waited for her clothes to dry at one of the few operating coin laundries in the city. "If we have to leave, we have to leave," she added with a shrug. Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco said they would like to see everyone evacuate: the residents who stayed in the city after Hurricane Katrina hit three weeks ago, as well as those who returned at the mayor's suggestion on Monday to the Algiers section of the city. The National Hurricane Center projected that Rita would strike Texas at the end of the week, which gave Louisiana officials hope that their state would be bypassed. "Today I feel better about Rita, and I'm not as prone to do a hard, mandatory evacuation," Nagin told reporters after meeting with President Bush and other federal officials. "But I want to leave that open as an option." Nagin said he will "start to shut the city down" today if Rita remains a serious threat. He estimated that about 500 residents remained in the city, as well as hundreds of emergency, relief and reconstruction workers. The estimate seemed low, as hundreds, if not thousands, of people could be seen in the Algiers area on Tuesday. Some of the military forces in New Orleans moved out of the city to be ready for action if Rita hits. Police, meanwhile, turned away many residents trying to return. Nagin said authorities would begin strict enforcement today of a dusk-to-dawn curfew. Buses were provided at the city's convention center for anyone who wanted to leave, and two buses of evacuees left Tuesday, Nagin said. Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, commander of the military's Joint Task Force Katrina, bristled at reporters' questions about where those evacuees would be taken. "That's not your business," he said, adding later: "Don't start panic here. ... Let's not get stuck on the last storm. Don't get stuck on stupid, reporters." Blanco said state officials were working to find housing for people still staying in shelters after Katrina. All of the shelters in the state south of Interstate 10, which runs through New Orleans, would be closed, she said. "We want people to move out of shelters, because shelter life is not a good way of life," she said. Many residents of the Algiers neighborhood, which Nagin had urged residents to return to Monday, said they didn't know what to believe. "It doesn't make sense. First he orders us back, then he tells us to leave," Arthur Lawrence Brown Sr., 73, said of the mayor. Brown sat in a folding chair on his stoop. Like many residents, he vowed not to leave. "I didn't go the first time. I won't go the second time," said Brown, an Army veteran of the Korean War. "If the Lord wants me, I'll be right here." Others said they will leave if Rita does threaten New Orleans. One was Marcia Toca, 36, who said she would flee if necessary. But she said she didn't want to leave her neighborhood too quickly because authorities were not letting people re-enter the Algiers area. "We're stuck here," Toca said. "It's like a prison. It's very frustrating. We came back in to get started rebuilding, and then they stopped us again."