December 25, 2014

Authorities release identity of victims killed in northeast Nebraska storms

Authorities have released the identities of the two killed in Monday afternoon’s tornadoes.

Stanton County Sheriff Mike Unger says five-year-old Calista Dixon was killed when the tornadoes struck the village of Pilger.

The Cuming County Sheriff’s office reports that 74-year-old David Herout of Clarkson was killed in a one-vehicle accident east of Pilger. Officials believe that crash was storm-related, but the incident remains under investigation.

The first of two tornadoes touched down in Stanton County shortly before four o’clock Monday afternoon. It quickly moved into the small northeast Nebraska community of Pilger, which has a population of about 350. A second tornado touched down about a mile from the first.

Authorities estimate that the tornadoes destroyed between half and three-quarters of Pilger, including houses, businesses, even a middle school, which quite likely has been damaged beyond repair.

Gov. Dave Heineman declared a state of emergency, triggering a state response to help local governments with recovery. The Nebraska State Patrol ordered an evacuation of the town overnight and closed all roads to the city. Some residents took shelter at a school in a neighboring city. The evacuation was lifted this morning.

The National Weather Service says it appears now the storm spawned four tornadoes in total. According to the NWS, it was the second and third tornadoes that traveled together about a mile apart. The northern tornado struck Piger. The two then merged.

A fourth tornado developed northeast of Pilger.

NWS crews are investigating, attempting to measure the strength of the tornadoes.