WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump headed to Alabama on Friday to survey the damage from a deadly tornado that devastated a small town, killing nearly two dozen people.
Trump was expected to tour rural Lee County in eastern Alabama, where 23 people died Sunday in a massive EF4 tornado that carved a path of destruction nearly a mile wide with 170 mph (270 kph) winds.
It was one of at least 38 tornadoes confirmed to have touched down across the Southeast in a deadly weekend outbreak.
As he left Washington, Trump said he expected to meet with Gov. Kay Ivey and people who “got hit very hard by the tornadoes.” He also planned to thank first responders.
Trump has said he’s instructed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to give Alabama “the A Plus treatment” as the state recovers.
The Alabama damage was officially deemed a disaster on Tuesday, with Trump ordering federal aid to supplement the ongoing state and local recovery efforts.
Ivey has also signed a disaster assistance agreement with FEMA and ordered state flags flown at half-staff until sunset Sunday.
The Beauregard, Alabama tornado was the deadliest to hit the U.S. since May 2013, when an EF5 twister killed 24 people in Moore, Oklahoma.
The dead included four children and a couple in their 80s, with 10 victims belonging to a single extended family. Several people in Georgia were also injured by twisters that also extended to Florida and South Carolina, according to the National Weather Service.
Trump had said earlier this week that the country was “sending our love and prayers to the incredible people of Alabama” and that “whatever we can do, we’re doing.” He was traveling to politically friendly territory for him: Alabama supported Trump by a wide margin in the 2016 presidential election.
The president’s reaction to natural disasters at times has seemed to vary with the level of political support he’s received from that particular region.
In the months after wildfires ripped through California, Trump threatened to cut off federal aid unless the state embraced forest management policies he championed.
“Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money. It is a disgraceful situation in lives & money!” Trump tweeted.
He also engaged in a sustained back-and-forth with lawmakers from hurricane-whipped Puerto Rico, repeatedly blaming the territory for its problems and noting how much money recovery efforts had cost the federal government.
The administration at one point considered redirecting disaster aid from places like Puerto Rico and California to pay for the president’s long-promised border wall. The administration ultimately chose to target other sources of federal dollars.
Alabama and several other Southern states could soon be under threat of more severe storms — including tornadoes — with a new system expected to reach the South this weekend, according to forecasters.
Trump had already been scheduled to fly south Friday for a weekend at his private Mar-a-Lago club and will be heading there after the tour.
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