March 3, 2007
Americus -- President George W. Bush flew over the tornado ravaged areas of Sumter County Saturday afternoon after visiting the destruction that took eight lives in Enterprise Alabama Thursday.
He flew from Washington the Fort Benning Saturday morning, and then went on a tour of the storm damaged areas of Alabama and Georgia. He landed in Americus about 1:0PM and toured the city in a motorcade to personally see the damage from ground level and to meet with Americus residents.
Traveling with Senators Saxby Chambliss, Johnny Issakson, and Second District Congressman Sanford Bishop, Bush greeted emergency workers, including the Red Cross, and told them that the federal government would be quickly responsive to the needs of Americus and Sumter County. Bush's visit seemed to lift the morale of those in Americus to assist in the recovery effort.
Sumter County's sheriff gave an assessment of the local situation to the president within camera range in a cordoned off area of the parking lot of the Wellness Center in Americus. This is one street over from Sumter Regional Hospital, which was badly damaged by the tornado Thursday night. The president greeted many of the state troopers and other emergency personnel who were allowed in this restricted area, and many people took the opportunity to photograph the president.
Bush earlier offered condolences to victims of violent storms and tornadoes that roared through several Southern states and said he had a "heavy heart." Bush told reporters at the White House yesterday that he had spoken to Alabama Governor Bob Riley Thursday afternoon and Georgia Governor Perdue yesterday morning.
He said he told the governors he wanted to express "my personal condolences as well as the condolences of the nation for those who lost their lives in the recent tragedies in those two states."
"I go down with a heavy heart. I go down knowing full well that I'll be seeing people whose lives were turned upside down by the tornadoes. I'll do my very best to comfort them."
The burst of tornadoes was part of a line of thunderstorms and snowstorms that stretched from Minnesota to the Gulf Coast. Authorities blamed tornadoes for the deaths of a seven-year-old girl in Missouri, ten people in Alabama and nine in Georgia, and twisters also damaged homes in Kansas.
The Associated Press contributed to this report