Weakened Laura still carries a punch as it heads toward Atlantic Ocean

The remnants of Hurricane Laura continued to weaken Saturday as it moved toward the mid-Atlantic states, but it still carried a threat of tornadoes and heavy rain along the coast before exiting into the Atlantic Ocean. 

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Over the open water, forecasters said, Laura could once again become a tropical storm and threaten Newfoundland.

The National Hurricane Service, in its final advisory on the storm, said Laura had weakened to a post-tropical cyclone by Saturday morning, but it still had some punch left.

The forecasters said the storm was producing sustained winds at 25 mph through Kentucky and West Virginia and could increase as Laura neared the mid-Atlantic coast. The hurricane center also warned of possible tornadoes Saturday afternoon and evening from North Carolina to the Delaware-Maryland-Virginia region.

a flock of seagulls next to a body of water: State Highway 27 leading to Cameron, La. is seen in Creole, La., Aug. 28 2020, as the storm surge recedes in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura. © Gerald Herbert, AP State Highway 27 leading to Cameron, La. is seen in Creole, La., Aug. 28 2020, as the storm surge recedes in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura.

As the storm moves east, it'll meet up with a cold front, which could bring moderate to heavy rainfall, strong to severe thunderstorms and gusty winds across parts of central Appalachia to the mid-Atlantic states, the National Weather Service said. 

The U.S. toll from the hurricane stood at 14 deaths Saturday, with more than half of those killed by carbon monoxide poisoning from the unsafe operation of generators.

Laura did not produce the level of destructive storm surge along the Gulf Coast that was forecast when it roared ashore early Thursday as a Category 4 hurricane.

The massive storm, packing 150 mph when it made landfall, destroyed numerous homes and businesses in Louisiana, particularly around Lake Charles and parts of Texas as it barreled northward.

The Louisiana Department of Health reported that more than 220,000 people were without water and might not get service restored for weeks or months.

Forty nursing homes were relying on generators, and assessments were underway to determine if more than 860 residents in 11 facilities that had been evacuated could return.  

An early analysis by Accuweather predicts the total damage and economic loss caused by Laura will be $25 to $30 billion. Chuck Watson, a disaster modeler with Enki Research, estimated it to be $20 to $25 billion.

On Friday, President Donald Trump issued a major disaster declaration for Louisiana. The declaration will unlock federal resources and recovery aid.

The president traveled to Lake Charles, Louisiana, and Orange, Texas, on Saturday to tour the damage and meet with first responders and local officials.

The president, wearing a red hat that read "USA" on the front and "Trump" on back, arrived in Louisiana shortly after 1 p.m. ET. Reporters traveling with him could see blue tarps on houses and debris as Air Force One landed at Chennault International Airport. 

Trump toured a warehouse used for relief supplies and then traveled to a neighborhood near downtown Lake Charles, where he was joined by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, FEMA director Pete Gaynor and Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

"This was a tremendously powerful storm," Trump said in Lake Charles. "We have to take care of Louisiana. We have to take care of Texas."

Edwards 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 also killed nearly two dozen people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic en route to the Gulf Coast. 

Contributing: John Fritze, USA TODAY; Greg Hilburn, The News-Star; Associated Press

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