President Donald Trump will again assume the role of national consoler as he tours Tennessee neighborhoods where lives and homes were destroyed by powerful tornadoes this week.
In Putnam County, a twister early Tuesday cut a 2-mile-long path, killing 18 people, including five children under 13.
Many more people were injured, some critically. Statewide, the death toll stood at 24 from a pair of storms.
As is customary with trips of this nature, the White House did not release details about the president’s Tennessee stops before he left Washington.
Trump will be joined by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn and other top officials during the visit.
Such trips have become familiar for the president, who has visited numerous scenes of disaster and tragedy after hurricanes, mass shootings and wildfires during the past three years.
Trump said the Tennessee tornadoes were “horrible” and “vicious.”
“Our hearts are full of sorrow for the lives that were lost,” he told a meeting of county officials from across the U.S. earlier this week. “Those tornadoes — I’ve seen many of them during a three-year period, and I’ve gotten to see the results. And they are vicious if you’re in their path.”
The Republican president won the heavily GOP state by 26 percentage points in the 2016 presidential election, and trounced Democrat Hillary Clinton in Putnam County by a margin of more than 2-to-1. Davidson County, the other Tennessee region devastated by tornadoes, is a Democratic enclave in the reliably Republican red state.
President Trump will also visite the Centers for Disease Control. The trip was scuttled Thursday because of unfounded fears that someone there had contracted the coronavirus.
Before leaving the White House on Friday, Trump said Americans should “be calm.” He spoke while signing an $8.3 billion coronavirus response funding bill at the White House.
He says the CDC trip had been scuttled over concern about a possible infection there, but the White House now says the president will visit on Friday.