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Wielding Chainsaws, A Town Comes Together To Clean Up After Hurricane Laura

A fallen tree limb in the front yard of a house in Lake Charles, La., after Hurricane Laura made landfall on Thursday.
Luke Sharrett
Bloomberg via Getty Images
A fallen tree limb in the front yard of a house in Lake Charles, La., after Hurricane Laura made landfall on Thursday.

In the small town of Bell City, La., trees were down everywhere on Thursday morning.

And just about wherever there was a felled tree, there was someone with a chainsaw getting it out of the way.

Dylan Guidry, who lives in the small town of Lake Arthur about 20 miles east, and his brother, were among those cutting down trees.

They were moving them "out of the way so people had a path to get through the roads, get to where they needed to go to help family and residents," says Guidry.

The volunteers are cleaning up in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura, which hit the coast of Louisiana early Thursday. Packing winds of 150 mph, the Category 4 storm is one of the most powerful storms in decades to hit the area.

"I've been living here for a long time," Guidry said. "I've never, ever in my life witnessed anything like that before."

Guidry described the night spent waiting out the storm. "We stayed up all night, watched the news, sat on the porch, watched out for tornadoes," he says.

As the hurricane made landfall, things took a turn. "The wind was whipping, glass breaking, roofs ripping apart all around us. It was bad," he adds.

Dana Lavergne spent the night at her son's house in Bell City. She says it was sturdier than the trailer she'd been living in with another son in Hayes.

"The wind was crazy," she says. "I've never experienced anything so powerful."

She and her family also joined the cleanup effort, cutting up trees and clearing them off the road. All of her son's oak trees were damaged.

"We're just lucky that the house stayed," she said. "We consider ourselves lucky."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Travis is WWNO's coastal reporter.
Ashley Dean is the digital news editor for New Orleans Public Radio. Before coming to New Orleans, she was the editor of Denverite, a digital news startup now under the Colorado Public Radio umbrella. Prior to that she was a copy editor and features writer at the Denver Post, and before that, a music reporter for the Colorado Daily. She graduated from Columbia University with a master's degree in journalism and from Northeastern University with a bachelor's degree in journalism.