LEE COUNTY, Ala. — Alabamians digging through the rubble of tornado devastation welcomed Friday’s visit from President Donald Trump but braced for the threat of more severe weather in the next two days.
However, the danger is not as great as it was last weekend in eastern Alabama, CNN meteorologist Monica Garrett said.
Tornadoes devastated Lee County in eastern Alabama then, killing at least 23 people and injuring dozens. Ten twisters struck the state and about 37 hammered the Southeast on Sunday.
“A tornado is possible,” Garrett said about this weekend. “But the bull’s-eye is more to the west.”
CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said severe weather will stretch from northern Texas into eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas from Friday afternoon till evening. The main threat will be damaging winds and an isolated tornado.
On Saturday, the greatest threat will be over parts of the Mississippi Valley centered around Memphis, but much of the area from Texas to Kentucky could see severe weather.
The threat Sunday is not expected to be as widespread, Hennen said.
On Friday, Trump visited Lee County, which suffered the brunt of last weekend’s storms.
He toured tornado-affected areas and met with residents and officials, including Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey.
“FEMA has been told directly by me to give the A Plus treatment to the Great State of Alabama and the wonderful people who have been so devastated by the Tornadoes,” the President said in a tweet Monday.
In Alabama, flags will fly at half-staff until sundown Sunday in honor of the 23 people killed. They ranged in age from 6 to 89. Four were children, Lee County Coroner Bill Harris said.
Meanwhile, funerals have continued for the victims. The Poarch Band of Creek Indians tribe is making a $184,000 donation to the East Alabama Medical Center Foundation to assist in the burials of the 23 victims.
Its reservation is in Escambia County, in the southwestern part of the state.
“It is at times of greatest need that we often see our communities coming together to help one another, this is one of those times. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of those affected,” Stephanie A. Bryan, tribal chair and CEO, said in a statement on social media.
Harris, the coroner, said other local groups have also donated toward a funeral fund, and an unnamed, notable Alabamian is donating $10,000 for grave foot markers.
On Friday, a funeral was to be held for the youngest victim, Armando “A.J.” Hernandez Jr.
Harris said the 6-year-old’s grandparents welcomed the tribe’s donation.
“They were very humbled and very appreciative. I feel so bad for them,” the coroner said. “I told them, ‘Y’all don’t worry about that (the cost), I have it covered.’ ”
The boy was found dead after sheltering in a closet with his older brother and father during the tornado, according to CNN affiliate WIAT. His 10-year-old brother and father are both recovering at hospitals.
“He kept a smile on his face all the time … and he loved everybody,” the boy’s grandfather, Bobby Kidd, said.
Kidd was last able to hang out with his grandson during his first-grade musical a week ago, he said.
“I was lucky to be off work. I got to go see it. I thank God he gave me that opportunity. It was the last few moments I got to spend with him,” Kidd told the TV station.
When the tornado struck, the child’s father “grabbed the boys and was holding them,” Kidd said. “And he said he could feel his ears start popping. The house exploded and the force of the tornado snatched both of the kids away from him.”
Choking back tears, Kidd said, “We could’ve lost all three of them and we know there are families that lost their entire family.”
North Carolina’s 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. In another family, Makitha Griffin lost five loved ones to the tornadoes.