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Help pours into tornado-damaged Alabama

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey comforted survivors and thanked first responders and volunteers Wednesday during a visit to Fultondale and Center Point, two cities heavily damaged by a deadly tornado Monday night.

Numerous state and local government officials joined Ivey on Wednesday morning as she surveyed storm damage. She thanked first responders and volunteers for their tireless work.

“The people of Alabama are praying for y’all,” Ivey said. “We are here as a sign of our commitment to your recovery.”

Governor Ivey tours tornado damage from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The tornado, rated an EF-3 by the National Weather Service, struck about 10:40 p.m. Monday, killing 14-year-old Elliot Hernandez, a freshman at Fultondale High School, and injuring 30 others.

“I express my deep condolences to Elliot Hernandez’s family and loved ones,” Ivey said. “Homes and businesses can be rebuilt, but losing a young soul to a storm like this is beyond heartbreaking.”

The tornado left a 10-mile path of destruction from Fultondale to Center Point. Karen Sparks of Fultondale said she had no idea how bad the damage was to her neighborhood until she returned today.

“It was a lot worse than I thought,” Sparks said. “By the grace of God my son and I got out without a scratch. The tornado tried to lift him out but he held on to a door. I’m just glad we got out.”

Numerous volunteers from a variety of churches and civic organizations were out in the hard-hit neighborhoods Wednesday delivering food, water and encouragement. Chris Fulaytar of Fultondale told Ivey the assistance has been an encouragement to him, his family and neighbors.

“Everyone around here has been great,” Fulaytar said. “All the neighbors have pulled together. We had people here 30 minutes after the storm hit the other night, checking on everybody. When you think of small-town Alabama, this is it.”

Alabama Power says as of 3 p.m. today it has restored power to 99 percent of the nearly 5,000 customers affected by the tornado who are able to receive it. Ivey thanked the power company along with emergency managers and first responders for their hard work.

“These are seasoned professionals that I know will get the job done,” Ivey said. “They know what to do and when to do it and I have every confidence in their ability to handle the situation. Without them, recovery efforts would simply not be possible.”

Ivey also encouraged Alabamians wanting and able to help storm survivors to contribute to the Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund.

“We’ve got an awful lot of work to do to rebuild this community,” Ivey said. “Alabamians always step up to help their neighbors in times of disaster. This is just another way they can do that.”

Gov. Ivey news conference in Fultondale from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)