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Gov. Abbott tours damage in Salado after town was hit by an EF-3 tornado

Abbott's visit comes days after the city was struck by an EF-3 tornado on Tuesday.

SALADO, Texas — Gov. Greg Abbott made a stop in Salado Saturday afternoon to tour the area and to hold a news conference after the town was struck by a major tornado days earlier. 

At the top of the conference, Abbott said that he was able to drive around the area to see the damage Tuesday's tornado had caused and said it was "just heartbreaking."

Abbott later stated one of the top issues was debris removal and he said the state was working with local officials to assist in that process. He said the next steps were the rebuilding process and public awareness with donations and support. 

After addressing the media, Abbott spoke highly of the Salado community, admiring their resiliency and strength. He said, "I know they're gonna be able to rebuild strongly and they will make this area better than it was before the tornado struck."

He visited a home owned by John and Peggy Wilson, an older couple who'd lived there since 1943. While moving through the home, he marveled at the destruction and said, "the power of a tornado is unbelievable."

Jamie Wilson was at the house helping clean up the debris that still lay there and said, "It's exciting to be able to see that he does care and he's here with us and he wanted to go into the home and see it even under the condition that it's in."

Volunteers and nearby homeowners lined up to shake the governor's hand and to thank him for checking in on them.

On Thursday, Abbott declared a disaster declaration for both Bell and Williamson Counties due to the destructive tornado, which the National Weather Service said traveled a little over 13 miles in Bell County.

RELATED: Gov. Abbott issues Disaster Declaration for Bell and Williamson Counties

Both counties saw heavy rain, damaging winds, very large hail and several tornadoes were reported in Central Texas that night. The most notable of the tornadoes hit Salado. It was rated an EF-3 after damage was surveyed on Wednesday by the National Weather Service.  The tornado is classified as strong and severe with possible windspeeds between 136 mph to 165 mph, per the NWS website.  

A total of 76 structures, including 61 homes, were damaged from the twister's 165 mph windspeed, according to Bell County officials.

According to Abbott, three churches were damaged and during the conference, pastors from Victory Baptist Church and First Cedar Valley Baptist Church spoke on how they were dealing with the aftermath of the storm.  

The Governor's Office is encouraging people affected by the storms to report their damage to the Texas Division of Emergency Management's iSTAT survey. That can be found at damage.tdem.texas.gov .

RELATED: Update: 13 more structures damaged by Salado tornado, upping total to 76

Bell County Judge David Blackburn told property owners that if they were impacted by the storm, they could call 254-534-4562 for assistance. He said those who answer will help connect them to the right people Mondays to Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Blackburn said property owners may be able to get funding to help offset the costs of damage caused by the tornado. He said that won’t be known until data regarding damage is fully collected. He said issuing the disaster declaration, however, is a step in the right direction to possibly help with the county attaining those funds.

If you’d like to help those who were impacted by the tornado, you can call 254-534-2217. This is also the number to call to make donations.

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