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County escapes storm damage

A powerful tornado, spawned by the same severe thundershowers that battered Butler County on Thursday, claimed the lives of seven people across south Alabama, including five in Enterprise when high winds collapsed a roof at the city's high school.

&#8220I am truly sorry that the people of Alabama have had to endure these storms today,” said Gov. Bob Riley, who declared a state of emergency late Thursday afternoon.

&#8220I am committed to providing all of our residents with any assistance they may need.”

Butler County EMA Bob Luman said the county escaped major damage, although winds did down some small trees and power outages were reported.

Luman said there were trees across Highway 106 and an 18-wheel truck and trailer was overturned attempting to cross a bridge near the Friendship community in south Butler County.

The driver was uninjured in the accident, which happened at noon on Thursday according to Butler County Sheriff Kenny Harden. Harden said the bridge, struck when the trailer overturned, was closed until state inspectors verified that it was safe. It was re-opened shortly after, he said.

Luman's thoughts, instead, turned to Enterprise.

&#8220I just feel sorry for everyone down there,” he said. &#8220You just can't plan for everything. They did what they were supposed to do and had the kids in the hall, but with that big of a storm and with that little of a notice I don't know what they could have done.”

The storm killed a man at another location in Enterprise, a man in Wilcox County at Millers Ferry, and the State EMA reported heavy damage in Henry and Covington Counties as well.

Schools Superintendent Mike Looney said the district took every precaution to ensure the safety of students during the severe weather. Looney said he stayed in direct communication with Luman, who provided the system with accurate weather data and information on road closings. All after school activities were canceled, buses were positioned at each school, and a response team was organized at the central office, he said.

Looney said the damage suffered in Enterprise is &#8220incomprehensible” and staff and students are already reaching out to their neighbors in Coffee County. Students at Greenville High School are leading a fund raising drive for the victims of the storm, said Looney.

&#8220In addition, we are inventorying schools for materials and supplies that be needed by the damaged school,” he said. &#8220Our system will coordinate its efforts with other school systems in the region and we will make every effort to provide any assistance that may be needed.”

Sen. Jeff Sessions, who toured the devastated areas on Friday, expressed his sympathy for the families.

&#8220The losses of our children at school in Enterprise is especially heartbreaking,” he said.