A thunderstorm that formed during the late afternoon hours on Monday, June 16, 2014, near Pilger, Nebraska killed at least 2 people and left many others injured.
Officials say a 5-year-old was killed in Pilger, NE with another death reported from an automobile accident on a country road east of Pilger that was attributed to the storm. The National Weather Service says the last tornado deaths in the area came 10 years ago.
“Stanton County Sheriff Mike Unger said up to three-quarters of Pilger, a town of about 350 people, was destroyed Monday,” says CNN. “The severe weather also caused damage in the towns of Wisner, Stanton and Pender.”
The National Weather Service said twin tornadoes touched down within roughly a mile of each other. Emergency crews and residents spent Monday evening sorting through demolished homes and businesses in the community, roughly 100 miles northwest of Omaha.
Authorities said the first tornado touched down around 3:45 p.m. and downed several power lines.
While local crews removed the debris, a second tornado was spotted southwest of Pilger, according to the Stanton County Sheriff’s Office. Shortly afterward, the town suffered a “direct hit” that leveled several buildings, including the Fire Department building, the sheriff’s office said. Several people near Main Street in Pilger suffered critical injuries, including the child who later died.
“More than half of the town is gone — absolutely gone,” Stanton County Commissioner Jerry Weatherholt said. “The co-op is gone, the grain bins are gone, and it looks like almost every house in town has some damage. It’s a complete mess.”
Barbara Mayes, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Valley explained these dual tornadoes are unusual because both appeared to have roughly the same strength. In most cases, one tornado tends to be larger and more powerful than the other, and the bigger tornado grows stronger as the smaller one weakens.
“It’s less common for two tornadoes to track together for so long, especially with that same intensity,” she said. “By no means is it unprecedented. But we don’t see it often.”
Gov. Dave Heineman declared a state of emergency, the Nebraska National Guard on Tuesday was aiding in the recovery work, officials said. The governor planned to visit Pilger on Tuesday to survey the damage.
“Well, you know the motto of Pilger is ‘The little town too tough to die,’ and I assure you, I know some of these residents, they’re too tough to die,” Heineman tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate WJAG in Norfolk. “They’re going to clean up and rebuild. This is a great community.”
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