The threat of tornadoes was forecast to redevelop Friday after a reported tornado tore through a church and homes in northeastern Arkansas. Trees were down and power was out where what was left of the once fearsome Category 4 hurricane spun over the state.
No injuries were immediately reported in Arkansas, where around 45,000 customers were without electricity early Friday.
Laura weakened to a tropical depression late Thursday, but more tornadoes and up to 5 inches (13 centimeters) of rain were expected across the Tennessee Valley region before the system closed in on the Mid-Atlantic states by Saturday.
One of the strongest hurricanes ever to strike the United States, Laura was blamed for six deaths as it barreled across Louisiana and parts of Texas.
A sense of relief prevailed that Laura was not the annihilating menace forecasters had feared, but a full assessment of the damage could take days. Buildings were demolished, entire neighborhoods left in ruins and hundreds of thousands and businesses were without power along the coast. Thunderstorms and sizzling heat were expected in the disaster area on Friday, complicating recovery efforts.
“It is clear that we did not sustain and suffer the absolute, catastrophic damage that we thought was likely,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “But we have sustained a tremendous amount of damage.”
He called Laura the most powerful hurricane to strike Louisiana, meaning it surpassed even Katrina, which was a Category 3 storm when it hit in 2005.
The hurricane’s top wind speed of 150 mph (241 kph) put it among the strongest systems on record in the U.S. Not until 11 hours after landfall did Laura finally lose hurricane status as it plowed north and thrashed Arkansas, and up until Thursday evening it remained a tropical storm with winds of 40 mph (65 kph).