4th Grade Girl Among 23 Killed in Alabama Tornado — Here's How to Help Victims' Families

Taylor Thornton was playing with a friend when the tornado hit, her friend survived and is being treated at a hospital

An elementary school student is among the dead after an F3 tornado tore through southeast Alabama, killing 23 people, destroying several homes, and leaving debris strewn across roads.

Taylor Thornton, a fourth grade student at Auburn’s Lee-Scott Academy, died as a result of the fast-moving tornado that touched down in Beauregard in Lee County around 2 p.m. local time, WRBL reported. The tornado was at least a half-mile wide as it ripped through the region.

School officials announced the death in a Facebook post and shared a GoFundMe page set up by a friend of Thornton’s family.

“Our dear friends, Ashley and David Thornton lost their precious daughter, Taylor in that storm,” the friend, Kaitlyn Willing, wrote on the GoFundMe page.

“Words don’t even come close to imagining the pain they are enduring. Taylor was an amazing example of a child of God. She brought so much joy to all that knew her. She was loved dearly and will forever be missed.”

https://www.gofundme.com/taylorthorntonfundTaylor ThorntonCredit: GoFundMe

Thornton’s parents reportedly told WSFA that Thornton was playing with a friend when the tornado hit. Her friend survived and was being treated at a hospital on Monday, WSFA’s Jennifer Hornton revealed in a Facebook post.

“She’s shattered over the loss of this precious little girl,” Hornton wrote of Thornton’s mother.

RELATED STORY: 23 Dead After Powerful Tornado Rips Through Southeast Alabama: ‘The Devastation Is Incredible’

The tornado was part of a severe storm system that caused major damage and produced tornadoes in Georgia, Florida and South Carolina, according to The Weather Channel.

In Lee County — where the deaths included children — authorities dispatched drones with heat-seeking devices to locate any survivors in the wreckage, according to WRBL.

“We’ve still got people being pulled out of rubble,” Lee County Coroner Bill Harris told AL.com on Sunday. “We’re going to be here all night.”

Dozens of emergency responders have joined the search and rescue efforts in Lee County and the coroner’s office had to call in more help to handle the number of bodies found, according to the Associated Press.

Although official wind estimates for the tornado are unclear, F3 storms typically pack wind speeds between 158 and 206 mph, the AP reported.

“It appears it stayed on the ground for at least a mile and maybe longer,” Jones told the AP of the storm.

How to help

Recovery efforts are already underway, with several organizations setting up relief funds for those impacted by the tornadoes.

Community Foundation of East Alabama has set up the Long Term Recovery Fund to accept donations and American Red Cross is offering its services to help people find loved ones missing in the wake of the storm.

The Red Cross has set up a shelter at Opekika’s Providence Baptist Church equipped with water, food and counselors.

The Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund is also accepting donations to help those affected by the storm.

The Auburn City School District is accepting all forms of donations from money and bottled water to diapers and air mattresses as officials seek to aid in the recovery efforts.

In the wake of the destruction, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey urged the public to utilize an online database to look for loved ones missing in Lee County.

“Our hearts go out to those who lost their lives in the storms that hit Lee County today,” Ivey tweeted earlier. “Praying for their families & everyone whose homes or businesses were affected. Officials from #AlabamaEma & other agencies are quickly working to provide assistance.”

Sunday marked the deadliest day for tornadoes in the country since 2013, according to The Weather Channel.

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