NWS: EF-4 tornado struck Pilger

Courtesy/NEMA

The tornado that struck Pilger Tuesday has been rated as a dangerous EF-4 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.

Brian Smith with the National Weather Service in Omaha/Valley said that the tornado that went through Pilger was an EF-4, while the parallel tornado was an EF-2.

"You certainly don't see that very often," Smith said. "It was the first time I've seen that in Nebraska and I've been here for 20 years."

The tornado decimated a large portion of the town.

Sheriff Mike Unger said 45 to 50 homes were destroyed in Pilger. There is one fatality confirmed in Pilger and one in Cuming County. The two fatalities from Monday's storms are the first tornado deaths in Nebraska in 10 years. There were 10 to 12 homes destroyed in Dixon County.

Faith Regional Medical Center in Norfolk treated 17 patients; 13 were treated and released, three remain hospitalized in Norfolk and one was transferred to an Omaha hospital. Providence Medical Center in Wayne treated and released three patients, all from the Pilger area.

Having declared a state of emergency, Governor Dave Heineman toured the areas hardest hit Tuesday, along with Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, and Deputy Adjutant General Rick Dahlman.

"When you walk through the town, there is shock and disbelief among the citizens of Pilger. They are resilient, but they are in shock," Heineman said. "There is total destruction of homes, businesses and the grain elevator. It's not going to hit them fully for several days."

The Red Cross Shelter at the Wisner-Pilger Junior/Senior High School in Wisner will remain open until further notice.

"I know how Nebraskans think. They want to help," Heineman said. "The desire of so many Nebraskans to help their neighbors in this difficult time is greatly appreciated."

Susan Epps, disaster program manager for the Red Cross, said volunteers may arrive at the Wisner-Pilger Junior/Senior High School on the west edge of Wisner at 7 a.m. Wednesday. Volunteers will be bused in to Pilger and separated into groups to perform debris removal. Volunteers must have a photo ID and are encouraged to wear sturdy work shoes, long pants, hats, work gloves, safety glasses and bring insect repellent and sunscreen (lunch will be provided). Volunteers who arrive directly in Pilger will not be allowed to enter the town.

There is nowhere to hold donations of goods at this time. Financial donations can be made at any Midwest Bank branch, referencing the Pilger disaster.

Heineman ordered 20 Nebraska National Guardsmen to state active duty following the storms.

State Fire Marshal, Jim Heine, said his office responded to 12 leaking propane tanks last night. He said Fire Marshal staff were onsite performing damage assessment of commercial and residential structures.

Jay Ringenberg, deputy director of the Department of Environmental Quality said, "The loss to livestock is significant, with hundreds of cattle and poultry killed by the storms." Producers who need assistance with livestock disposal may contact DEQ at 402-471-7436. DEQ will begin contacting individual producers Wednesday.

Nebraska Department of Agriculture Director Greg Ibach is encouraging producers who suffered livestock losses due to the tornado to keep detailed records documenting those losses as they continue to work to address storm damage.

Documentation could include third-party verification of the loss, such as a statement from a veterinarian or county extension agent, photographs, or receipts for expenses associated with carcass removal/disposal.

Ibach also encourages individuals that have sustained crop damage in recent weeks to share that information with their local Farm Service Agency as well for any additional federal programs that might be available.

Counselors are available to those individuals that are feeling stressed and overwhelmed by the circumstances. Those individuals are encouraged to call the Rural Response Hotline at 800-464-0258.

Highway 15 is closed from Hwy 275 (north of Pilger) to Hwy 32 (south of Pilger). This highway will most likely remain closed through June 18 for storm response activity. US Highway 275 is open.

Pilger's water supply lost power and pressure when Pilger was hit. The communities of Wisner, Madison and Norfolk have sent water crews to help repair service and a field representative from DHHS is at the scene. Water leaks have been repaired and the system has been flushed out. The water is clear and residual disinfectant is sufficient and a "Boil Water" advisory has been issued and will stay in effect until further notice. Testing for contaminants will be conducted by the DHHS Environmental Health Laboratory.

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