The president is moving quickly to provide federal relief.
President Obama is in Alabama today to survey the devastating toll of the tornado that hit the state earlier this week. Severe weather has destroyed parts of several other southern states, including Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia, but it had the greatest impact on Alabama. The president’s wife, mother-in-law and children will accompany him on the tour.
Obama has declared a state of emergency for each of the state’s 67 counties and will provide federal aid to supplement state and local relief efforts, which will be coordinated by FEMA. After speaking with Gov. Robert Bentley (R) last night, the president issued a statement that he has ordered the federal government to act swiftly in its response.
“While we may not know the extent of the damage for days, we will continue to monitor these severe storms across the country and stand ready to continue to help the people of Alabama and all citizens affected by these storms,” he said.
The president clearly doesn’t want to repeat the mistakes made by former President George W. Bush, who did a short flyover after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005 and then prematurely congratulated then FEMA director Michael Brown on a job well done while tens of thousands of New Orleans residents were enduring horrific circumstances.
So far the death toll in the six states impacted is at about 310—and rising—with more than 200 in Alabama, The Associated Press reports. The storms have left thousands of people homeless and millions without electricity.
“These were the most intense super-cell thunderstorms that I think anybody who was out there forecasting has ever seen,” meteorologist Greg Carbin at the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, told The Associated Press. “If you experienced a direct hit from one of these, you'd have to be in a reinforced room, storm shelter or underground” to survive, he said.
(Photo: ASSOCIATED PRESSAP)