President Obama Meets With Families, Tours Damage in Alabama
President Obama visited Alabama Friday, touring the devastation and destruction left by one of the worst outbreaks of severe weather in the southeastern part of the region in decades. The violent weather has left more than 300 people dead across six states. Alabama has been hit the hardest by the deadliest outbreak of tornadoes in about 40 years.
The Los Angeles Times reported: "After landing in Tuscaloosa, Obama traveled by motorcade through the city where trees were toppled, neighborhoods flattened and debris and rubble were constant companions."
"I've never seen devastation like this," Obama said, telling residents, "We're going to make sure you're not forgotten." The president expressed his condolences to those who were affected by the storms.
During this visit, Obama and his family met with Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, FEMA officials and other and federal agencies to offer assistance to the area, as well as families who were directly affected by the tornadoes.
Obama was scheduled to meet with families affected by the storms as well as government officials. Shortly after Obama's arrival Friday morning, Birmingham Mayor William Bell said Obama told him that federal help will continue flowing to the devastated region.
"He assured us that he will continue to get us the resources necessary," Bell told CNN affiliate WBMA. "We're doing all we can as a local government. "We just need more assistance from the federal government."
The president declared Alabama a major disaster area, clearing the way for federal funds to go to those who have lost their homes or businesses, and to aid in recovery and cleanup efforts.
On Thursday, Obama called the devastation "heartbreaking."
“In a matter of hours, these deadly tornadoes – some of the worst that we’ve seen in decades – took mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, friends and neighbors, even entire communities,” Obama said. "I want every American who has been affected by this disaster to know the federal government will do everything we can to help you recover, and we will stand with you as you rebuild."
As of Friday, the death toll has risen to 319 people, with at least 210 fatalities confirmed in Alabama by the state's Emergency Management Agency. In other states, 34 deaths have been reported in Tennessee, 33 in Mississippi, 15 in Georgia, five in Virginia and one in Arkansas.
There have been 685 tornadoes in the U.S. in April, the most in the month since the modern records monitoring the figure began in the 1950s. Most of the tornadoes have touched down in the South.
UPDATE 2:10 p.m. PDT: According to senior White House officials, President Obama also met with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) during his visit to Cape Canaveral, Florida Friday.