Recovery efforts from Sunday’s deadly tornadoes began in earnest Monday even as the search for people still missing continued, raising concerns that the death toll would rise from the 23 already confirmed.
President Donald Trump called Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey this morning to offer any assistance and has since told the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide the state with “A-plus assistance,” according to Ivey.
“To the people of Lee County, please know that we are here today to stand with you today, tomorrow and the days and weeks ahead,” Ivey said at a news conference at Beauregard High School today. “We will stand together and get through this together.”
The Beauregard and Smiths Station communities were among the heaviest hit by the tornado.
This GIF of before and after photos from the Lee County (Beauregard, AL) tornado shows this house and trailer left their foundations and ended up in the woods. @ReedTimmerAccu says the occupants survived. https://t.co/ETCh1hOTBI @NWSBirmingham @spann pic.twitter.com/t1SU3D4Fad
— AccuWeather (@accuweather) March 4, 2019
Alabama Power employees were among those who began recovery work Sunday after the storms had passed and continued into the day Monday.
Of the 26,000 outages around the state Sunday, about 1,400 customers were still without power at 5 p.m. Monday with an estimated 99 percent of customers able to receive power expected to be restored by midnight.
“Access to the hardest-hit areas is still being restricted this morning due to the ongoing search and rescue activities,” said Bobby Hawthorne, manager for Distribution Engineering Services. “Damage assessment is underway where possible.”
Twenty-seven company and contract line crews from throughout the state were shifted to these areas to support the restoration effort.
The National Weather Service upgraded its preliminary assessment of the Lee County tornado from an EF3 to an EF4 today, saying it had winds of up to 170 miles per hour and a track that was nearly a mile wide and 24 miles long.
Chris Darden, meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service in Birmingham, traveled to Lee County Sunday and was on site shortly after the tornado passed.
BREAKING: Preliminary EF-4 Tornado Damage has been found along County Road 39 just east of Cave Mill Road in southwestern Lee County. Winds have been estimated at 170mph. Single family homes were completely destroyed. Photos are from those survey locations. #alwx pic.twitter.com/euYNfSDY11
— NWS Birmingham (@NWSBirmingham) March 4, 2019
Apart from the devastation, he said he was struck by the immediate response he witnessed.
“It’s Alabama,” he said. “You have a call for five people and 100 show up.”
Darden said the Lee County tornado wasn’t the only one to hit the state Sunday.
In addition to that EF4 tornado, preliminary estimates show two EF1 tornadoes struck Washington County, an EF1 struck Tuskegee from Macon County into Lee County, an EF1 touched down in Barbour County near County Road 79 and an EF2 touched down in Eufaula in Barbour County.
Damage Survey Team #1 has confirmed two separate EF-1 tornadoes in Washington County Alabama. One south of Chatom, AL and one near Sims Chapel, AL. Click here for the full report: https://t.co/Ay29lwo6SH pic.twitter.com/OnBtkKpXts
— NWS Mobile (@NWSMobile) March 4, 2019
Sunday’s outbreak was the deadliest in the United States since May 2013, according to www.weather.com.
In January, an EF2 tornado struck the Wetumpka area.
Below are some ways to help victims of Sunday’s storms:
- Donations can be made at the Red Cross of East Alabama. https://www.redcross.org/local/alabama/about-us/locations/east-alabama.html
- A long-term recovery fund has also been set up by Community Foundation of East Alabama. Listed as “Lee County Disaster Fund.” Contact (334) 744-1020 or [email protected].
- Volunteers can encouraged to sign up with Samaritan’s Purse. (https://spvolunteer.org/)
- Supplies can be dropped off at several locations in the area, including Providence Baptist Church (2807 Lee County Rd 166m Opelika, AL 36804) and the Auburn Dream Center (1103 N Donahue Dr., Auburn, AL 36832). For more information, see Lee County’s Sheriff’s Office Alabama on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/LeeCountySheriffsOfficeAlabama/) or Lee County, Alabama Emergency Management Agency on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/leecoema/).
Our hearts are broken for the lives lost yesterday. We’ll ride in their honor on 4/27. Riding or not, you can make a contribution to the Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund which helps Alabamians who have exhausted other avenues of disaster relief to rebuild. https://t.co/O3x2Ba7Yoz
— Bo Bikes Bama (@BoBikesBama) March 4, 2019