NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 8 - Ten days ago, the water rose to the front steps of their house. Four days ago, it began falling. But only now is the city demanding that Richie Kay and Emily Harris get out.
They cannot understand why. They live on high ground in the Bywater neighborhood, and their house escaped structural damage. They are healthy and have enough food and water to last almost a year.
They have a dog to protect them, a car with a full tank of gasoline should they need to leave quickly and a canoe as a last resort. They said they used it last week to rescue 100 people.
"We're not the people they need to be taking out," Mr. Kay said. "We're the people they need to be coordinating with."
Scattered throughout the dry neighborhoods of New Orleans, which are growing larger each day as pumps push water out of the city, are people like Mr. Kay and Ms. Harris. They are defying Mayor C. Ray Nagin's orders to leave, contending that he will violate their constitutional rights if he forces them out of the homes they own or rent.
"We have food, we have water, we have antibiotics," said Kenneth Charles Kinler, who is living with four other men on Marais Street, which was covered with almost four feet of water last week but is now dry. "We're more or less watching the area for looters."
Mr. Nagin has said the city is not safe for civilians because of the risk of fire and water-borne diseases. There was no official word on Thursday about when the police would start to evict residents forcibly, but officers have been knocking on doors to plead with people to leave on their own.
"Unless you have enough food or water for three weeks, you're a walking dead man," Sgt. George Jackson told holdouts on the northern edge of the city on Thursday afternoon.
To reduce the risk of violent confrontation, the police began confiscating firearms on Thursday, even those legally owned.
To be sure, many of the thousands of people remaining in New Orleans want to leave, especially in neighborhoods where the water continues to stand several feet deep. Hundreds of people a day are being ferried to the convention center by National Guard troops in five-ton trucks and then bused outside the city.
Some holdouts may change their minds as their food and water run out. Some appear mentally incompetent or have houses in severely flooded neighborhoods and are staying in the city in the mistaken hope that they will be able to go home in a few days.
But thousands more do not fall in any of those categories. They are sitting on dry ground with all their belongings and plenty of provisions. They say they want to stay to help rebuild their city and maybe earn some money doing it, because they have animals they are afraid to leave behind, or to protect their property or simply because they have always lived here and see no reason to move their lives to a motel room in Houston or San Antonio.
Billie Moore, who lives in an undamaged 3,000-square-foot house on the city's southwestern flank that also stayed dry, said she did not want to lose her job as a pediatric nurse at the Ochsner Clinic in Jefferson Parish, which continues to function.
"Who's going to take care of the patients if all the nurses go away?" Ms. Moore asked.
When police officers arrived at her house to warn of the health risks of remaining, she showed them her hospital identification card.
"I guess you know the health risks then," the officer said.
Ms. Moore and her husband, Richard Robinson, have been using an old gas stove to cook pasta and rice, dumping cans of peas on top for flavor.
"We try to be normal and sit down and eat," Ms. Moore, 52, said. "I think that how we'll stay healthy is if I keep the house clean."
Power remains out in most of the city, and even where the tap water is flowing, it is not drinkable. Bathing and using the toilet are daily challenges. Many residents are siphoning water from swimming pools and fountains.
Some holdouts seem intent on keeping alive the distinct and wild spirit of this city. In the French Quarter, Addie Hall and Zackery Bowen found a unusual way to make sure that police officers regularly patrolled their house. Ms. Hall, 28, a bartender, flashed her breasts at the police vehicles that passed by, ensuring a regular flow of traffic.
On Thursday morning on St. Claude Avenue, a commercial strip in Bywater, east of downtown, about 12 people congregated inside and in front of Kajun's Pub, drinking and smoking. Inside, the bar looked dank, but a fan swirled air overhead and a television set in the corner showed local news, both fired by the bar's portable generator.
"New Orleans has been my home for 20 years," said Kenny Dobbs, who celebrated his 35th birthday at the bar after the flood. "I've been on my own since I was 14."
Like other people, Mr. Dobbs said, he believed that the city had exaggerated the health risks of staying, as a scare tactic. The city simply wants to force people out so that its reconstruction will go more smoothly, he said.
"Why do you think they're evacuating people?" he asked. "So they don't have as much to deal with."
The police and federal law enforcement officials have depicted many of those staying as looters waiting to pounce, though the holdouts said that they were actually protecting their neighborhoods from crime and that their steady presence is a greater deterrent than the occasional police patrol.
While residents and some legal experts question the constitutionality of forced evacuations, those staying have no functioning courthouse in the city to hear their complaints, and no state or federal authorities have stepped in to stop the plan.
In general, residents say the active-duty soldiers and National Guard troops had treated them well. Local police officers, many of them working for almost two weeks straight and having lost families or possessions, have been much more aggressive, Mr. Dobbs said.
Two New Orleans police officers stole $50 and a bottle of whiskey from him last week after finding him on the street after dark, he said.
With police officers and federal law enforcement agents ratcheting up the pressure on residents to leave, the holdouts worry that it is just a matter of time before they are forced out.
Ms. Harris said she did not want to leave. "I haven't even run out of weed yet," she said.
But she knows that fighting with police officers is futile.
"I'll probably bitch and moan, but I'm not going to hole up," she said.
And by Thursday afternoon, Kajun's Pub had closed, and the vehicles previously parked outside were gone.
There was no indication whether Mr. Dobbs and the other people who had been drinking and joking six hours earlier had been evacuated or simply disappeared into the city.