Gov. Deal emotional after SWGA damage tour

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Governor Nathan Deal appeared at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport Wednesday for a helicopter ride across Albany, getting a first hand look at the devastation left behind by a deadly tornado.

Deal said that Albany and south Georgia were not being overlooked this time, and that he he is trying to get as much help here as possible.

Governor Deal was joined by Congressman Sanford Bishop as they flew in a helicopter over this area and other tornado damaged parts of Dougherty County.

The governor described what he saw as 'A complete disaster.'

The EF-3 tornado struck Sunday afternoon, and killed four people in Albany.

Another tornado that began an EF-2 and grew to an EF-3, killed 11 others in other south Georgia counties. Adel was the hardest hit. Seven people died there.

"From the air, as I was today, it is very clear to see the path that the tornado traveled a very devastating path. Pretty much everything that was in its path was either leveled or severely damaged," Deal explained.

"A number of industries were hit. Those people won't be able to go to work. There's assistance for them. There will be housing assistance made available," said Congressman Bishop.

Bishop said he knows people are tired and frustrated after two storms in January devastated the community. And he said that even though the federal government moves slowly, he is confident federal aid is coming.

"I am frustrated, and we had a moment of silence Monday in Washington. And in my remarks what I said was, 'We look forward to collaborating with all of the partners that will provide help. And we want to get it soon. As soon as possible,'" Bishop said.

Bishop said the presidential transition may have slowed the aid process last week, but he is working to get it back on track now.

The governor said the state has as much help here now for this step of the recovery effort.

Deal said there was 776 state workers taking part in the tornado recovery efforts on Wednesday, 322 of them were in Dougherty County alone.

He said there are also thousands of volunteers in South Georgia working as well.

But he said that even with all the help from all sources he knew, it is going to be a long cleanup from the deadly storms that blew through Sunday.

Dougherty County leaders said the governor is doing all he can, but storm victims need that help now.

"Well I don't know that they feel any comfort until the help is actually here, and delivered. And there is nothing else that our elected officials can do. We need the bureaucracy that is FEMA to actually move this process forward," Dougherty County Commission Chaiman Chris Cohilas explained.

While Deal was visiting the area, he tweeted that the first FEMA request had been approved, including individual assistance for Dougherty County after the January 2nd storms.

He also tweeted that he spoke with President Trump to thank him for approval and said that Trump is committed to expediting the second request for the January 22nd tornadoes.

The governor also made a stop in Adel to tour the damage there, another hard hit area in Southwest Georgia.

Governor Deal drove through some of the hardest hit areas.

He took a look at Sunshine Acres and then went to Val Del Rd and spoke with the Bullard family, who lost everything.

He also said everyone in Cook County has been accounted for.

Deal got emotional at the end of the press conference, and said that the ability for South Georgians to come together is crucial.

"You find out how important it is to have communities like this, who have neighbors who are helping neighbors," said Deal.

Other community leaders joined Deal in expressing their appreciation of all those working to restore normalcy.

"If you want to talk about the heartbeat of America, go to Adel Grocery Company," said Congressman Austin Scott. "Talk to those volunteers down there, you'll find people who lost their own homes, who are in there helping other people."

The governor expects more assistance to be given to all areas in Southwest Georgia, and he thinks that will happen quickly.

Anybody who has damage from the January 2 storm and needs FEMA assistance, can talk to a real person with FEMA at 1-800-621-3362 or register online at

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