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New Iberia rides out Lili

Louisiana town hit by rain and wind, but it could've been worse

Derek Deroche shields his face from wind and rain Thursday in New Iberia, Louisiana.
Derek Deroche shields his face from wind and rain Thursday in New Iberia, Louisiana.

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NEW IBERIA, Louisiana (CNN) -- Hurricane Lili rattled and drenched the southern Louisiana town of New Iberia Thursday morning, its heavy winds damaging buildings, trees and signs as it mowed north through the state.

As Lili moved north, the dark sky made the morning look more like night as the town of 34,000 waited out the storm, which snapped trees, ripped off roofs and shingles, knocked down traffic signs, cut down utility wires and slammed structures in the area, a swath of rural Cajun country.

Residents remained holed up, waiting for the storm to pass. The town will need a lot of cleaning up after the storm passes and leaves dangerous debris behind.

Downed power lines will have to be cleared, trees blown on top of houses and onto streets will have to be removed and dodged, and any citizen venturing out later on will have to sidestep sheets of corrugated tin roofing that sailed down streets.

As the storm raged, some people stood on their porches and marveled at the power of the hurricane force winds, but were ever thankful that the once-Category 4 storm downshifted to Category 1 by the time it neared New Iberia.

"We are monitoring the surge," said Mayor Ruth Fontenot. "The bayou is up very, very high. ... For those not familiar with a bayou, usually a bayou doesn't have any movement. I can't remember seeing our bayou move like this. ...

"The rain is just pelting us. The wind is very, very strong," Fontenot said. "New Iberia is a beautiful city known for live oaks. So when you get winds of this degree, the live oak falls across your street, so we're getting phone calls of trees fallen against the traffic."

Louisiana National Guard Staff Sgt. Michael Gary, stationed at the town's emergency center, said 35 percent to 50 percent of the residents evacuated Wednesday and those who remained were at their homes.

"We're hanging tight till it passes."

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