Tornado cleanup continues in NE Neb., NW Iowa
WAYNE, Neb. – The tornado cleanup continued Sunday in northeast Nebraska and northwest Iowa as residents worked to clear the debris the storms left behind.
Officials say the storms caused significant damage to dozens of businesses and a number of rural homes as several tornadoes touched down Friday. The most severe damage was in Wayne, Neb., but storms also damaged homes near Macy, Neb., and into rural areas of northwest Iowa near Sloan.
The losses around Wayne are expected to cost millions of dollars to repair because the tornado decimated the city’s industrial area near the airport, but officials haven’t put a figure on the damage. Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman said after touring the damage Sunday that he expects the area will qualify for federal disaster aid.
Heineman said he’s grateful no one died in Friday’s storms. But at least 15 people were injured, including one critically.
“People in this community are resilient and they are going to rebuild,” Heineman said.
Businesses and homeowners are just starting to get an idea of what it will take to rebuild. Representatives of Seattle-based Pacific Coast Feather were in Wayne Sunday to assess what can be salvaged from the company’s feather-bedding plant there.
“Our message to the affected businesses is: we want to help you get back up and running,” Heineman said.
Wayne Mayor Ken Chamberlain said many homeowners who lost nearly all their possessions in the storm appear resilient.
“It’s been heart wrenching. Considering what happened, these people are not broken. They got knocked down, got up and brushed themselves off and began working on recovery,” Chamberlain said.
The National Weather Service says the tornado that struck Wayne had peak winds up to 170 mph, so it as an ranked EF4. That’s near the top of the five-point Enhanced Fujita scale for tornadoes.
The Weather Service said October tornadoes are unusual, but not unheard of. Nebraska averages about one tornado every October, and last year, there were 41 tornadoes nationwide in October.
The Wayne tornado left a trail of damage over 19 miles starting eight miles southwest of the city, but fortunately it missed the downtown and residential district. The campus of Wayne State College was also largely spared although the college’s chief information officer, John Dunning, was critically hurt.
Outside of Wayne, a different tornado damaged at least 12 homes and one business in an area stretching between Macy and Sloan.
Near Pierson, Iowa, Bud and Patricia Herbold took cover under a basement staircase as a tornado tore apart their house and destroyed three grain bins, livestock buildings and a barn. But Bud Herbold said he’s family would persevere.
“I’ve been through worse than this,” said Herbold, whose 11-year-old daughter, Laura, died in a snowmobile accident in 2003. “My dad told me, ‘Just do what comes naturally.’ So that’s what we’re going to do.”
Officials expect volunteers to help with the storm cleanup, but they are asking people who want to help to call 211 to register so they can coordinate efforts.