PILGER, Neb. -- The National Weather Service in Valley said two tornadoes hit the area of Pilger Monday. NWS said the larger tornado which went through the village was an EF4, with estimated wind speeds of 166 to 200 mph, and the parallel tornado was an EF2.
NWS meteorologist Brian Smith said, “You certainly don’t see that very often. It was the first time I’ve seen that in Nebraska and I’ve been here for 20 years.”
The National Weather Service says four tornadoes likely touched the ground during the massive storm in northeast Nebraska.
Damage, Deaths, and Injuries
Sheriff Mike Unger said 75-percent of Pilger is demolished. Unger said 45 to 50 homes are destroyed. There were 10 to 12 homes destroyed in Dixon County.
The Sheriff's Office confirmed that two people died in storms in northeast Nebraska, 5-year-old girl Calista Dixon and 74-year-old David A. Herout, of Clarkson, Nebraska.
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.
Deputies said Herout died after his vehicle left the roadway during the storm. Officials say Herout was ejected from the vehicle around 4:50 p.m. on a county road approximately 2.5 miles east of Pilger. Cuming County officials are still investigating. Unger said the accident is considered storm-related because it occurred about the same time the storm pounded the area.
Five-year-old Calista Dixon died at Faith Regional Health Services in Norfolk. Stanton County Sheriff, Mike Unger, said that Dixon was in a trailer home on Main Street in Pilger. Sheriff Unger believes the home took a direct hit from the tornado and likely threw Calista and other occupants from the home. Calista's mother, 42-year-old Kandi Murphree, is in a medically induced coma in Omaha. Cody Murphree, Kandi's son, released a statement Tuesday that the tornado did not seriously harm him or his 4-year-old sister, who was not identified. The statement was released through his employer, Heritage Homes of Nebraska in Wayne.
No funeral arrangements have been made for Calista Dixon.
In a press release, the sheriff's office said around 3:45 p.m. a tornado hit a farm house that also served as a daycare, west of Stanton. Emergency crews found five people in or around the wreckage.
Sheriff Unger said the Fire Department, Post Office and City Hall were all destroyed.
NEMA says the two fatalities are the first tornado deaths in Nebraska in 10 years.
Recovery and Clean Up Efforts
Tuesday morning Pilger residents were able to go into the town and to get belongings. They were instructed to meet at the ball fields before being escorted into town to survey damage and collect valuables.
Nebraska Emergency Management said Pilger residents were bused to the Red Cross Shelter at the Wisner-Pilger High School in Wisner.
The Nebraska Department of Roads said 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.
A NEMA field team and the NEMA mobile operations center arrived in Pilger on Tuesday morning to work with local emergency management staff on recovery efforts.
National Guard members will deploy with the NEMA team to help local responders and begin to assist as needed in cleanup activities.
The Nebraska State Patrol Mobile Command Post is in Pilger. Troopers were onsite overnight providing security and will continue to assist with resources and assets as needed.
Water and Power
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.
Nebraska Public Power District line technicians are providing mutual aid to hard hit areas of Stanton County and northeastern Nebraska following Monday’s devastating tornadoes. Crews are assisting with the restoration of sub-transmission and distribution lines with line crews from Stanton County Public Power District and Northeast Nebraska Public Power District.
State Fire Marshal, Jim Heine, said his office responded to 12 leaking propane tanks last night. Heine noted, with daytime heat, his staff would continue to monitor the tanks in the area for additional problems. Fire Marshal staff were onsite performing damage assessment of commercial and residential structures.
“On behalf of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), I would like to express our deepest condolences to the families of those who were killed and injured as a result of several tornadoes, severe winds and large hail that struck central and eastern portions of Nebraska yesterday,” said regional administrator Beth Freeman. “Also, I would like to commend the ongoing work of local and state first responders for the measures taken in the aftermath of these storms to protect lives and provide immediate assistance during this difficult time. FEMA has remained in constant contact with officials at the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) since the severe weather hit. We encourage residents to continue following the instructions of local officials who are still working to save lives and property in the impacted areas.”
PILGER RELIEF FUND
Donations can be mailed to:
Pilger Community Development Fund
c/o Midwest Bank
PO Box 346
Pilger, NE 68768
You can drop your monetary donations off at any Midwest Bank location.
Midwest Bank customers can conduct business at any Midwest Bank location.