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Three Dead, Chemical Plant On Fire, Massive Wind Destruction Recorded In The Aftermath Of Hurricane Laura

An extremely powerful Hurricane Laura has ripped apart portions of Louisiana and far-eastern Texas, killing at least three people and tearing up roofs while knocking out power for hundreds of thousands after first roaring ashore as a Category 4 storm.

Laura -- the region's strongest storm in over a century -- made landfall at about 1 a.m. CT with sustained winds of 150 mph. By 10 a.m. CT, the storm still was raging more than 100 miles inland over Louisiana at Category 1 strength, with sustained winds of 75 mph.

Watch footage of the hurricane below:

Louisiana's Lake Charles city, littered with storm damage, also was dealing with what the governor said was a chemical fire at a plant in the area Thursday morning, with large plumes of smoke rising in the sky.

The fire moved Gov. John Bel Edwards to urge residents to take shelter, turn off air conditioning units and await instructions from officials. Details about precisely what was burning, and whether it related to the storm, weren't immediately available.

Communities including Lake Charles, some 35 miles inland, are littered with widespread wind destruction. Across the city, roofs and walls are damaged, trees are snapped, twisted and broken; steel poles and lampposts are bent; street signs are torn from the ground.

Wind gusts of more than 120 mph raked that area intermittently for an hour overnight, CNN's meteorologists say.

"The damage is extensive," Edwards told CNN. "It appears now we have more structural damage from the wind" than storm surge.

More than 1,500 search and rescue personnel, plus 400 boats and high-water vehicles were headed Thursday morning to the worst-hit places, Edwards said. Winds were still too strong for helicopters to fly.

In East Texas, rescue teams were out in the Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange areas, Gov. Greg Abbott said, noting major evacuations "no doubt saved lives." Further north, tornadoes were still a threat.

At least three people have died after trees fell onto homes in Louisiana: a 14-year-old girl in Vernon Parish; a man in Jackson Parish; and a 60-year-old man in Acadia Parish, authorities have said.

In Lake Charles, Paul Heard left his house just as the storm was pulling part of the roof off around 1 a.m., he said.

He took shelter in his car. As he watched from 25 feet away, he "could see my roof was heaving up and down several inches."

"There's a lot of damage. People are going to need a lot of help around here," Heard told CNN.

Laura tied with a hurricane from more than 160 years ago for the strongest storm to hit Louisiana. The 1856 hurricane also had winds of 150 mph when it made landfall, CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller said.

More destruction is ahead: Parts of northern and central Louisiana still were under a hurricane warning late Thursday morning, as the storm's center pushed toward Arkansas.

"Laura will likely set the standard for a near worst-case scenario with a landfalling tropical system in our region," the National Weather Service's Shreveport, Louisiana, office wrote Thursday morning.

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