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‘Give us some type of help,’ beg Louisianans hit by hurricane and pandemic

Hurricane Laura has been downgraded to a tropical storm, but it is still dropping heavy rains and spawning tornadoes as it moves east. Hundreds of thousands of people along the Gulf Coast remain without power, and it may be days, or even weeks, before it’s restored. In Lake Charles, Louisiana, residents have begun the work of clearing trees and debris. Adam Raney reports from Alexandria.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The remnants of Hurricane Laura made their way east today. The weather system was downgraded to a tropical depression, but it still is dropping heavy rains and spawning tornadoes across the South. At least 14 people have been killed.

    Residents are starting the business of recovery, but it's a daunting road ahead. Power could be out for days or weeks for many.

    Our senior producer Adam Raney is on the ground in Louisiana with this report.

  • Adam Raney:

    The noisy din of generators and chain saws filled the air across Southern Louisiana, where the destruction from Hurricane Laura was all around.

    From the toppled old Southern trees to flattened homes, residents who didn't evacuate started the business of cleaning up. Hundreds of thousands of people who were in the storm's path along the Gulf Coast are still without power.

    And one of the worst hit-places was Lake Charles, Louisiana, a city of 78,000 just off the Gulf Coast.

  • Cecil Morgan:

    I have never run from a hurricane. This is probably the worst one that I have ever been through.

  • Adam Raney:

    Eighty-two-year-old Cecil Morgan has lived here in Lake Charles his entire life. His house survived. The barn he built himself did not.

  • Cecil Morgan:

    All I know is, it's going to be a job cleaning it up. And I have got to go through it, because there's probably a lot of stuff in there that I want to save.

  • Adam Raney:

    Not far away, Michael Dewayne Eleam was trying to save what he could from his store, Drips and Kicks. The front and back of it were blown off by the high winds of the storm.

  • Michael Dewayne Eleam:

    Things happen, but we will get it back on track. We will get it back on track.

  • Tara Bartie:

    We don't even have a home to go back to.

  • Adam Raney:

    Tara Bartie showed us photos of how badly her hometown of Lake Charles was damaged. She had to evacuate and stay in a hotel in Lafayette. She's a shift manager at a Burger King, and was already financially strapped, but this is wiping her out.

  • Tara Bartie:

    We have got like 12 people in our party. We don't really have any more cash, and we can't afford to go try to drive to Baton Rouge or New Orleans in the middle of nowhere, and don't know who or what or where.

    So, all we're asking is, can someone, Red Cross, FEMA, somebody, reach out to come and assist us?

  • Adam Raney:

    Bartie was also very concerned about COVID-19. She's already lost three family members to the virus.

  • Tara Bartie:

    I have a senior citizen mother. I have a cancer child, sick cancer child, that is up here. And we is really in a strict, strict bind right now.

    So, anybody — everybody that's listening, Red Cross, FEMA, somebody, please come give us some type of help, some kind of information. Lead us to where we can go at, because, after tonight, it will be our last night, and we will be stuck on the road without any place to go. And, right now, we can't afford that.

  • Adam Raney:

    We met 71-year-old Carole Porter outside her apartment complex. The roof had blown off and the power was out.

  • Carole Porter:

    Thank God we made it through. He blessed us really well.

  • Adam Raney:

    She and her neighbors were waiting to be evacuated. The community is mostly retirees and people with disabilities.

  • Carole Porter:

    Because I don't know where I'm going to wind up at.

    And when you are retired, you have to live off a pension, and you just can't move anywhere or any way you want to go. So you just have to hold in there and just pray to God that you make it.

  • Adam Raney:

    Speaking a little while ago with Carole Porter, she says that she, along with other residents from her housing complex, were evacuated to New Orleans last night, some 200 miles from Lake Charles.

    They don't really know when they're going to be able to go back home. What's being used much less in the wake of Hurricane Laura are large shelters, like this one in an arena in Alexandria, Louisiana. This one's run by the American Red Cross.

    But Louisiana is one of the states hardest hit by COVID-19. And public health officials and evacuees themselves say the last thing they want to do is gather with a lot of people in these congregate shelters.

    What that means is that people already stretched thin have fewer options as to where to look for shelter.

    Reporting for the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Adam Raney in Louisiana.

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