President Obama declared a state of emergency for Alabama late Wednesday night, mobilizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency and allowing the state to tap federal bank accounts for its response to the deadliest burst of tornadoes in years.
Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano spoke with Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley by phone. Bentley and FEMA Administrator William Fugate held a 9 a.m. telephone presser on Thursday.
Obama also directed Fugate to travel to Alabama to meet with Bentley and other state and local officials to assess the damage in the state.
The death toll from the storms that ripped through at least five Southern states reached 200 on Thursday morning, according to news reports.
A mile-wide tornado tore through Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Wednesday afternoon, leaving parts of the city "obliterated," Mayor Walter Maddox told the Weather Channel. Officials said that roads in the city are unpassable and that up to 1 million people are without power. At least 128 people were killed by the storm in Alabama.
A local news station captured the footage of the tornado in Tuscaloosa below.