As rescue and recovery efforts continued across the South, President Barack Obama arrived in Alabama on Friday morning to get a close-up look at the devastation wrought by the worst tornadoes in decades.
His motorcade wound through some of the hardest-hit neighborhoods in Tuscaloosa, where the smell of gas hung sharp in the air and the landscape was littered with blasted buildings, flattened homes and blown-out vehicles. The city suffered the most deaths in the state, 36, from the string of deadly tornadoes that killed at least 300 people in six states.
Alabama, where at least 210 deaths were blamed on the storms, was particularly hard hit. The president met with Gov. Robert Bentley and local leaders and was scheduled to talk with tornado victims as well. Hundreds of residents lined the streets as his motorcade drove through Tuscaloosa, many waving American flags.
“Help us!” Ronald Rorie shouted at the procession of black SUVs.
“My house is gone, my car is gone, everything I have is gone,” said Mr. Rorie, who is 42. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. It takes years to build it all up and just a couple minutes to knock it all down.”
Mr. Obama’s motorcade pulled to the curb in front of an apartment complex that had been reduced to a jagged heap of rubble, with just a few units intact. As the president stepped into what was left of the building, Chris Nicholson and Amanda Johnson watched from across the street.
Their first-floor apartment survived fairly well and they had spent the morning hauling out everything they could salvage, rolling it in shopping carts and hand trucks down the street and packing it into a relative’s pickup truck to drive to a storage unit.
Watching the president enter the building, Ms. Johnson said she was glad she and her fiance had taken the initiative to hammer down some nails that had been sticking out at odd angles.
“I hope he’s up to date on his tetanus,” she said of the president.
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