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Georgia cleans up after Hurricane Idalia

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

After Hurricane Idalia made landfall in Florida, it continued at hurricane strength through the dense forests of south Georgia. The storm took down a lot of trees in the city of Valdosta, many on private property. As Grant Blankenship of Georgia Public Broadcasting reports, homeowners are fielding a flood of offers for help.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHAINSAW BUZZING)

GRANT BLANKENSHIP, BYLINE: There's always chainsaws once a storm like Idalia moves out. But once the city of Valdosta clears the roads, it gets quiet. That's because local governments are only responsible for public property. What's in your yard - or, in the case of Valdosta resident James LaPlant, what's stuck in your roof - is your problem. But LaPlant says he's had no shortage of people willing to help him out for a price.

JAMES LAPLANT: We had as many as, you know, 10 or 12 business cards just left on our door. Yeah, it just - the number of people that descend upon you and kind of charge exorbitant rates is breathtaking.

BLANKENSHIP: LaPlant is waiting on a local business he's used before, but Idalia just left too much timber on the ground in South Georgia for locals only. It's a literal windfall for tree service companies from around the region. Doug Shramplin traveled up from Florida to look for tree removal work. He's cruising, going door to door. He has a pitch.

DOUG SHRAMPLIN: You want the trees off as soon as possible. You want to maintain the moisture. You don't want, you know, mold or stuff setting into houses.

BLANKENSHIP: He's hoping that persuades.

And what's the cost?

SHRAMPLIN: It's different for different companies, but I think bare minimum is probably 1,500 bucks an hour.

BLANKENSHIP: An hour.

SHRAMPLIN: An hour. Yeah. We're finding that a lot of people in the area don't really have the money to spend on things like this.

BLANKENSHIP: And this is dangerous work. Tragically, Georgia's only Idalia-related death was of a man clearing a tree on his own. So people in Valdosta have to weigh their options.

BOB LEE: When you're 79 years old, you get tired very easily.

BLANKENSHIP: That's Valdosta homeowner Bob Lee. He's got a bulletin board full of tree service business cards, too.

LEE: Oh, I've had people tell me up to - when they thought I was going to have insurance, they were up to $4,500.

BLANKENSHIP: Forty-five hundred dollars. That's just for one tree resting on the corner of his roof. Lee finally found someone to remove it for $800. But he also has to do something about his other tree that fell on his neighbor's roof.

LEE: Mentally, we're really whacked out.

BLANKENSHIP: Officials have been warning residents about sketchy tree work. They say to watch out for people who want payment up front who could literally cut and run. For NPR News, I'm Grant Blankenship in Valdosta, Ga.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTAY SAVAGE SONG, "I WILL SURVIVE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Grant came to public media after a career spent in newspaper photojournalism. As an all platform journalist he seeks to wed the values of public radio storytelling and the best of photojournalism online.