LEE COUNTY, Ala. — President Donald Trump flew Friday to Alabama after a destructive preliminary EF-4 tornado tore through Lee County, killing 23 people and turning homes and business near Beauregard into rubble.
Authorities and family members said the victims killed in Sunday's tornado were between 6 and 89 years old and included 10 victims from a single family, connected by marriage.
Update 3:05 p.m. EST March 8: Trump told reporters Friday that he couldn't get to Alabama "fast enough" after Sunday's tornado, WSFA reported.
The president and first lady toured a destroyed section of Beauregard, where the National Weather Service said a nearly mile-wide tornado touched down Sunday. He told reporters that it was "hard to believe" what he could see of the damage from the air.
"We saw things you wouldn't believe," he said, according to WSFA. "Governor (Kay Ivey) has done an incredible job."
Trump met privately with survivors and family members affected by Sunday's massive storm, including a woman who lost 10 member of her family.
"What they've been through is incredible," Trump said.
The president is scheduled to fly from Alabama to his home in Florida on Friday.
Update 10 a.m. EST March 8: President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump and their son, Barron Trump, are traveling Friday to Alabama.
The first family departed for Alabama around 9:45 a.m., according to CNN.
Update 1:50 a.m. EST March 8: The Poarch Band of Creek Indians donated $184,000 for the funeral costs of the 23 people killed in Sunday's deadly tornado in Lee County, WSFA reported Thursday night. Lee County coroner Bill Harris said the tribe asked him how much money it would take to cover funeral expenses, and they "graciously made it happen."
The money will be dispersed to the funeral homes to cover expenses, the television station reported.
The tribe’s headquarters are in Atmore, Alabama.
“The Tribe is making a $184,000 donation to the East Alabama Medical Center Foundation to assist in the burial of the victims from last Sunday’s devastating tornado in Lee County, Alabama,” said Stephanie A. Bryan, CEO of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. “It is at times of greatest need that we often see our communities coming together to help one another, this is one of those times. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of those affected.”
Update 12:45 p.m. EST March 7: U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., thanked President Donald Trump on Thursday for his response to Sunday's deadly tornado in Lee County.
"I want to thank him in advance for coming to Alabama and for this emergency declaration," Jones said at a morning news conference.
Lee County officials on Wednesday shifted from search and rescue to recovery mode after determining that all known people missing after the preliminary EF-4 tornado tore through Beauregard. Officials with the National Weather Service said the tornado, which had windspeeds around 170 mph, was on the ground for at least 70 miles.
Lee County Coroner Bill Harris said four people remained hospitalized Thursday as a result of the storm, although they were all expected to recover.
According to the National Weather Service, Sunday's tornado was the worst to hit Lee County since 1875, when the last EF-4 tornado was clocked in the area.
Recovery efforts were ongoing Thursday.
Update 3:30 p.m. EST March 6: A single family, connected by marriage and blood, lost 10 members in Sunday's tornado, according to The Associated Press. Lee County officials had previously said seven members of a single family were lost in the storm.
Cousins Cordarrly Jones and Demetria Jones told the AP on Wednesday that they lost their grandparents, Jimmy Jones, 89, and Mary Louise Jones, 83; the couple's son and their uncle, Emmanuel Jones, 53; and seven cousins: Eric Jamal Stenson, 38; Florel Tate Stenson, 63; Henry Lewis Stenson, 65; James Henry Tate, 86; Tresia Robinson, 62; Raymond Robinson Jr., 63; and Maggie Delight Robinson, 57.
"Everybody in this area just about was related," Demetria Jones, 28, told the AP. "It's devastating."
Authorities said Wednesday that they had accounted for all known people reported missing after a preliminary EF-4 tornado touched down Sunday in Lee County. The tornado, which spun for dozens of miles, left a path of destruction nearly a mile long, National Weather Service Officials said.
"It really hasn't fully hit me yet," Cordarrly Jones, 29, told the AP. "I'm still trying to process it."
Twenty-three people were killed in Sunday's tornado.
Update 11:15 a.m. EST March 6: Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones said Wednesday morning that authorities have accounted for all people reported missing in the wake of Sunday's deadly tornado.
Jones said Tuesday that seven or eight people were missing after the tornado struck.
"We are now confident we have accounted for all of the individuals that we had unaccounted for, so that number is down to zero," he said Wednesday.
Update 9:40 a.m. EST March 6: Lee County Coroner Bill Harris told WTVM a pair of corporations have offered to pay for the funerals of the 23 people killed Sunday in the tornado that ripped through Beauregard.
"I got a phone call from an individual that said … there's a very large corporation that will probably pay most, if not all, of the cost of every victim's funeral," Harris told WTVM. "I got another call from another company that will do the same thing. So, between the two, these expenses – which can be up into the thousands – will probably be covered by these two companies."
Lee County authorities have identified 23 people killed in Sunday's preliminary EF-4 tornado. The victims ranged in age from 6 to 89 years old.
President Donald Trump plans to visit Alabama on Friday to survey the wreckage. He declared Tuesday that a major disaster exists in the state and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts.
In a news release Tuesday, the Trump Administration said assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the disaster.
Damage assessments are ongoing.
Update 2:30 p.m. EST March 5: President Donald Trump said he plans to visit Alabama on Friday.
"It's been a tragic situation but a lot of good work is being done," Trump said Tuesday at a news conference. "We've been in constant touch with the governor and also the governor of Georgia."
It was not immediately clear how long he'd be in the area.
Update 11:55 a.m. EST March 5: Lee County officials released the names of the 23 people killed in Sunday's storm at a news conference Tuesday morning. The victims ranged in age from 6 to 89 and included seven members of a single family, connected by marriage, officials said.
Update 11:25 a.m. EST March 5: Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones said Tuesday that seven or eight people remained missing after a deadly tornado spun through Beauregard on Sunday.
"Hopefully that number will continue to decrease as the day goes on," Jones said. "We're not ruling (further fatalities) completely out, but we're hoping that ... number stays static."
Lee County Coroner Bill Harris said the death toll remained at 23 by Tuesday morning and included victims between the ages of 6 and 93.
The deaths also included seven people from a single family connected by marriage, Harris said. The families lived two or three houses apart from each other in Lee County.
"Just keep those families in your prayers," Harris said.
Search efforts continued Tuesday.
Update 11 a.m. EST March 5: Officials in Lee County are providing an update Tuesday on the ongoing search and rescue efforts in the area after Sunday's deadly tornado.
Update 9:50 a.m. EST March 5: Lee County sheriff's deputies are expected to hold a news conference at 10 a.m. CST to update the public about ongoing search and rescue efforts.
Deputies said Monday that 23 people were killed in the preliminary EF-4 tornado that touched down Sunday in the county. The storm cut a path nearly 1-mile wide and at least 24 miles long, Sheriff Jay Jones said.
Update 10:30 p.m. EST March 4: Tornado survivors are recounting harrowing stories of not only loss, but of bravery and heroism, too.
A tornado survivor and her mother were able to ride out Sunday's tornado and walk away alive, but the woman told WBRC-TV that they lost seven family members in the storm.
So far three children are among the 23 dead and multiple adults, according to Lee County Coroner Bill Harris, but the identities have still not been publicly released.
"It's been a long night," Harris said Monday evening according to WBRC. "These families, some of them have lost entire families."
“This is the worst natural disaster that has ever occurred in Lee County," said county EMA Director Kathryn Carson. "Most of us cannot remember anything ever creating this much of a loss of life and injuries in our citizens.”
Greg Molinari credits his family's survival to a text message from his daughter-in-law minutes before the twister hit, according to AL.com.
She told them to use kitchen pots as helmets and it seems it saved their lives.
"We did put big cooking pots over our head," Molinari told AL.com. "Saved our lives. The ceiling crashed in on us."
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed an expedited disaster declaration late Monday asking President Donald Trump to approve immediate assistance for the state.
Update 7:00 p.m. EST March 4: The Lee County Sheriff's Office called off the search for victims and survivors Monday evening, giving emergency workers a chance to rest and regroup before heading out again on Tuesday to search for the "dozens' of missing.
Update 2:30 p.m. EST March 4: Lee County Coroner Bill Harris said at a news conference Monday afternoon that the death toll remained at 23 as officials continued search and rescue efforts in the area on Monday.
Twenty-three people, including three children age 10 and younger, were killed as a result of the tornado. Harris said most of those killed have been identified, with the exception of a half dozen who have to be identified through fingerprints.
"We believe we know who those individuals are and, as of 12 noon today, I have none that have been reported to me as missing," Harris said. "We think we have everybody. Once they get into some more areas, I'm not going to be surprised if we come up with more decedents. Hopefully we wont."
The National Weather Service has given the storm a preliminary EF-4 rating.
Update 2:20 p.m. EST March 4: Officials with the National Weather Service have measured the strength of a tornado that devastated parts of Lee County on Sunday as a preliminary EF-4 tornado.
"This was the deadliest tornado in the United States since the Moore, Oklahoma, tornado in 2013," Chris Darden, the meteorologist-in-charge of the National Weather Service's Birmingham field office, said Monday at a news conference.
Officials estimated tornado wind speeds were around 170 mph, Darden said.
Authorities are also probing possible tornado tracks in Macon and Barbour counties, officials said.
Search and rescue efforts continue Monday.
Update 11:20 a.m. EST March 4: Officials with Lee-Scott Academy in Auburn, Alabama, identified one of the victims in Sunday's deadly Lee County tornado as Taylor Thornton, a fourth-grade student at the school.
"Our hearts at Lee-Scott Academy are broken this morning," officials said in a post on Facebook. "Please pray for the Thornton family, our students, faculty, and staff during this difficult time."
Update 10:45 a.m. EST March 4: Officials with the National Weather Service said Monday that they were surveying possible tornado tracks in a handful of Alabama counties.
Crews were investigating reports out of Macon, Lee and Barbour counties.
Update 10 a.m. EST March 4: President Donald Trump said he's instructed Federal Emergency Management Agency officials to "give the A Plus treatment to the Great State of Alabama" as the state grapples with the aftermath of Sunday's storms.
"(Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey), one of the best in our Country, has been so informed," Trump said in a tweet. "She is working closely with FEMA (and me!)."
Officials in hard-hit Lee County continued search and rescue efforts Monday. Authorities said at least 23 people died after a minimum of one tornado cut through the rural Beauregard community, about five miles south of Opelika. Officials expect the death toll might rise as searchers continue to dig through the debris.
Update 9:35 a.m. EST March 4: Authorities in Alabama focused Monday on search and rescue efforts after a deadly tornado descended Sunday on Lee County, leaving a swath of damage at least half a mile wide and a mile long.
At least 23 people died as the storm swept through the region, including a 6-year-old child, Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones said Monday morning at a news conference.
"I have not seen this type, this level of destruction ever in my experience here in Lee County," Jones said. "That covers a span back I know for at least 50 years we have not had anything of this nature before."
Authorities believe more than one tornado might have touched down Sunday in Lee County. Jones said Monday the rural Beauregard community, about five miles south of Opelika, was devastated by the storm.
The area has "lot of mobile homes (and) manufactured-type housing," Jones said Monday.
"Those were affected the most dramatically from the effects of the storm," Jones said, describing the damage as "catastrophic."
"In some locations, the complete residences are gone. The debris field stretches for hundreds and hundreds of yards. We're finding materials from one location up to half a mile from the original point of where they were located."
Jones said authorities were initially searching a square mile for survivors, but he added that the grid was likely to widen.
"We have a lot of our first responders … just completely committed to doing everything they can to locate anyone who may be out there still," he said.
Update 11:30 p.m. EST March 3: President Donald Trump is urging people in Alabama to stay safe.
Trump also warned on social media Sunday night that the severe weather that ravaged parts of the Southeast may not be over.
Update 11 p.m. EST March 3: At least 40 people were treated at East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika, Alabama, Sunday following a deadly tornado.
Officials also said patients were sent to nearby hospitals.
Update 10:45 p.m. EST March 3: Reports indicate the town of Cairo, Georgia, on the border with Florida, sustained major damage. Local news outlets are reporting dozens of homes and several businesses were damaged, and people were trapped in their homes from the debris, but there were no reports of injuries or death.
In Florida, several thousand Talquin Electric customers in Tallahassee electric were without power.
Original report: Lee County, Alabama, Sheriff Jay Jones confirmed 14 people are dead and more are missing as emergency responders continued sifting through the debris of homes and businesses looking for survivors, WSFA-TV reported.
The tornado tore through a section of the county, leaving a swath of rubble several miles long, snapping trees and knocking out power and cell service.
"I can say that at this time we have 14 confirmed fatalities. And again, the search continues. We still have some people that are reported missing," Jones said, according to WRBL-TV.
He also confirmed a number of injured people were taken to area hospitals.
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