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Families mourn 23 dead after Alabama tornadoes

(CNN) — Granadas Baker used his body to shield his family inside his home’s bathroom as fierce winds of a tornado were ripping the door and roof off.

Within minutes, most of his home was gone, but his wife and his three children made it “without a single scratch” on them.

“It’s just grace, I can’t see it any other way,” he said.

Four days have passed since a series of tornadoes hit central Alabama, killing 23 people and reducing dozens of homes to rubble. First responders have accounted for everyone who was missing and have now transitioned into cleaning and recovery.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey toured some of the most devastated areas on Wednesday. She listened to those who lived through the tornadoes and those who are mourning the loss of family and friends.

“Everything is in shreds. Hopes and aspirations are in shreds,” Ivey told reporters.

Ivey signed a disaster assistance agreement with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and has ordered flags to fly at half staff until sundown Sunday in honor of those who died in the tornadoes.

Funerals begin

The funerals for the victims will begin Thursday when the family of Marshall Lynn Grimes honors his life.

His stepdaughter, Brooke Waldrop, had been calling for help searching for a black motorcycle vest that belonged to him.

He was the local president of a Christian motorcycle club.

According to CNN affiliate WSFA, the family hoped to put the vest in a shadow box to memorialize him.

Now, the memento of an important part of his life has been found, WSFA reported.

Grimes’ funeral service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday at Cornerstone United Methodist Church, said WSFA, and his family has asked anyone who has a motorcycle to help create a processional to his funeral.

Grimes’ daughter, Kayla, was injured in the storm, and his fiancée, Sheila Creech, and Kayla’s friend Taylor were killed, Waldrop told WSFA.

Loss of loved ones

All of the people initially reported missing in the wake of the tornadoes have now been accounted for, Lee Smith, the spokeswoman for the Lee County Emergency Management Agency, confirmed to CNN Wednesday.

The storm killed 23 people, who ranged in age from 6 to 89. Four of them were children, Lee County Coroner Bill Harris said.

The youngest victim was 6-year-old Armando Hernandez, family member Sara Crisp said. Taylor Thorton, 10, also died in the storm, according to Stan Cox, the head of Lee-Scott Academy where she went to school. Cousins Jonathan Marquez Bowen, 9, and Mykala Waldon, 8, were also killed, Johnathan’s mother, Shamel Hart said.

Some families lost several relatives.

Erroll Reese told CNN affiliate WRAL that he lost seven members of his family to the tornadoes, and that at least 30 more now are without homes.

In another family, Makitha Griffin lost five loved ones to the tornadoes.

Where those affected turn next

Lee County Emergency Management Agency Director Kathy Carson told reporters at a Tuesday briefing that there has been an outpouring of offers of assistance. She said authorities are organizing a volunteer reception area for those who want to help.

Residents who’ve lost their homes can get shelter, food and medications, she said.

“We’re here for the citizens. We cannot emphasize enough that we want them to communicate and let us know what they need,” Carson said.

President Trump said he plans to visit Alabama on Friday.

“It’s a tragic situation but a lot of work is getting done” in tackling the storm damage, he said Tuesday at the White House.

The Lee County District Attorney’s Office warned the public to be wary of donation scams.

“Few things bring out scammers like a natural disaster. Please be careful who you donate money to during these times,” the office said on its Facebook page.

Seven funeral homes are involved in services for the 23 victims, and the community is stepping up to help support families financially, Harris said. Two large corporations have pledged to pay funeral costs but they aren’t publicly confirming the move, he said. Churches and civic organizations are among those providing financial support.

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