Cowan says you can call it the luck of geography: The Civil War-era mansions are mostly on higher ground.
The wealthy have their woes, too. But, Cowan points out, they have the means to get more help.
"These houses are historic," observes contractor Andy Guzman. "They've been here for ages."
One hundred-year-old mansion is now inhabited by the contractors who helped restore her. The owners asked them to move in and since then, they've become the ambassadors of the neighborhood.
"I had a friend of mine call me and say, 'Andy, whatever you charge me to go into my house.' And I said, 'It's not about charging you, it's about accessibility. We're willing to do it," Guzman recalls.
He and his business partner, John Crouch, have become quite a resource for those wealthy evacuees who have the wherewithal to not have to rough it.
"They call," Crouch says, "and they find out what's wrong with their house; they all think their houses have burned down or been looted, or they're under water. …(But we give them) a little hope that they can come home, at least, and know their house is not laying on the ground or under 10 feet of water."
Cowan notes that some of New Orleans' aristocracy are refusing to leave.
Resident Ashton O'Dwyer characterizes it as a "Lord of the Flies, Robinson Crusoe existence."
O'Dwyer has a home on St. Charles Street, one of New Orleans' most famous addresses, and he has water, generator power, and bins full of ice for his highballs.
Where did he get all that ice, Cowan wondered.
"I'm a resourceful guy sir," O'Dwyer responded.
Resourceful and, Cowan say, nervous, despite the military's presence.
O'Dwyer answered with a question of his own: "Do you see a National Guardsman posted outside my door?"
He's got plenty to worry about, he figures: nice house, nice things.
Showing Cowan his wife's family heirloom sterling silver, he turned the table on Cowan again, asking him, "How long do you think that would have lasted had the guys that ran around, hiding in the shadows, casing neighborhoods… How long would it have taken them to come into this house and take anything of value that they wanted?"
So, says Cowan, he's armed to the teeth, to scare anyone off.
Quite frankly, Cowan admits, he scared him, too.
"So if someone walked into your house," Cowan inquired, "you'd shoot 'em?"
"Yes! I would aim for the head. Actually, you aim for the mid-chest."
O'Dwyer is the exception though, Cowan says, not the rule among the privileged in the Big Easy.
Just down the street is Audobon Place, in one of the more famous neighborhoods in New Orleans.
And not a soul there stayed.
But they did hire a private security company, four armed night watchman to keep an eye on all their possessions, Cowan points out. It's a privilege that's costing the neighborhood as much as 200-thousand dollars a week.
Cowan told one of the guards about O'Dwyer: "He's got a shotgun, he's got a pistol. What do you think of citizens protecting their own home?
"If no one will protect their home," responded Gil Kozlovsky of ISI Security, "who will protect them, if not them?"
New Orleans police do come and check on Ashton and his guns, Cowan says.
He asked one, "Am I in trouble?"
"No," the officer replied, "I came to see if you're OK."
And they're hinting he might be forced to leave.
Asked if he feels they have any legal basis to kick him out, O'Dwyer said, "No. …Why aren't they asking you to leave? What are you doing here? You're a guest in my house. You're a guest in my city."
A city with two very different stories to tell, and neither one of them particularly good, Cowan concludes.