Alabama turns its attention to recovery efforts, funerals
All of the people initially reported as missing after a string of deadly tornadoes tore through Alabama have now been accounted for, Lee Smith, the spokeswoman for the Lee County Emergency Management Agency, confirmed to CNN Wednesday.
Four tornadoes hit central Alabama, the National Weather Service in Birmingham said, leaving a trail of destruction in their paths and killing 23 people.
Lee County Coroner Bill Harris said that of those who died, four were children. Those killed ranged in age from 6 to 89.
Seven funeral homes are involved in services for the 23 victims, and the community is stepping up to help support families financially, Harris said. Two large corporations have pledged to pay funeral costs but they aren’t publicly confirming the move, he said. Churches and civic organizations are among those providing financial support.
“What a wonderful blessing this will be for the families who have lost loved ones! To these corporations we thank you!” the Lee County Sheriff’s Office said on Facebook.
Some families lose many
For some, the pain of loss is being felt many times over.
Erroll Reese told CNN affiliate WRAL that he lost seven members of his family to the tornadoes, and that at least 30 more now are without homes.
Reese told the station in a Monday night interview that 15 of his family members lived on the same street in a lower middle-class area.
“It’s devastating when you think about it,” Reese said. “I was sitting there just a while ago thinking, ‘How do you handle this, what do you do, who do you reach out to?’ And before I knew it, people were reaching out to me trying to help.”
In another family, Makitha Griffin lost five loved ones to the tornadoes.
Her aunts, Florel Tate Stenson, 63, and Tresia Robinson, 62; her uncles, Henry Lewis Stenson, 65, and Raymond Robinson Jr., 63; and her cousin 38-year-old Eric Jamal Stenson were among the nearly two dozen victims of the tornadoes.
A cousin who was in the same house as those killed sustained injuries and is now hospitalized, Griffin said.
Since Monday, Griffin has been feeding first responders who are searching for the missing and helping those who lost their homes.
She says that growing up, she learned the importance of community.
“Everybody was still family whether they were related or not,” she said. “We gotta help our families.”
Children among the victims
Taylor Thornton, a fourth grader at Lee-Scott Academy, was among those killed, Stan Cox, the head of the school, confirmed to CNN after meeting with her parents.
“Very inquisitive, she loved learning and always contributed in a positive way,” Cox said. “People were better because they were with her and now our school feels empty without her.”
The youngest victim was Armando Hernandez, 6, family member Sara Crisp said.
Armando, AJ to his family, was described as “a precious little man that was loved by everyone,” and who “was always eager to give hugs and loved his family,” according to a post on Facebook by his aunt Tina Melton.
Cousins Johnathan Marquez Bowen, 9, and Mykala Waldon, 8, were also killed in the tornado.
Johnathan’s mother, Shamel Hart, told reporters at a news conference about the loss of two children in the family, according to CNN affiliate WRBL.
“When we got there there was a man in a truck, and he jumped out with a chainsaw and started plowing through trees to make a path for my cousin and me to bring our babies to him. He helped with CPR and transport,” cried Hart.
State looks to recovery
Dozens of people were injured, with 77 patients from areas affected by the tornadoes hospitalized on Sunday.
Six adult patients remained hospitalized Tuesday at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital, spokeswoman Holly Gainer confirmed to CNN.
Four other patients remain hospitalized at East Alabama Medical Center, according to hospital spokesman John Atkinson.
Lee County Emergency Management Agency Director Kathy Carson told reporters at a Tuesday briefing that there has been an outpouring of offers of assistance. She said authorities are organizing a volunteer reception area for those who want to help.
Residents who’ve lost their homes can get shelter, food and medications, she said.
“We’re here for the citizens. We cannot emphasize enough that we want them to communicate and let us know what they need,” Carson said.
President Trump said he plans to visit Alabama on Friday.
“It’s a tragic situation but a lot of work is getting done” in tackling the storm damage, he said Tuesday at the White House.
The Lee County District Attorney’s Office warned the public to be wary of donation scams.