Two people have been killed, much of the small community of Pilger gone, in wake of twin tornadoes that tore through the town in northeast Nebraska.
One of the two killed was a five-year-old. Nearly 20 people suffered injuries in the storms; some serious.
Stanton County Sheriff Mike Unger reports the first tornado touched down in Station County late Monday afternoon. A second tornado touched down shortly afterward southwest of Pilger. It hit the town hard, destroying several major buildings, including the Wisner-Pilger Middle School, which might well be beyond repair.
Unger estimates the tornadoes destroyed half to three-quarters of the town.
A spokeswoman for Faith Regional Health Services in Norfolk reports the hospital is treating 16 patients, suffering various injuries from the storm. Some have been released. Some will undergo surgery. One has been transferred to a hospital in Omaha for treatment.
Providence Medical Center in nearby Wayne treated three injured in the storm. Two have been released. A third patient is reported in stable condition.
Gov. Dave Heineman is touring the damage.
Heineman says Pilger will have to lean on its reputation to recovery from this devastating storm.
“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.”
Heineman says the state is poised to help in recovery, once damage has been assessed, including how much of the damage is covered by private insurance.
“So, you’ve got to determine where private insurance coverage (comes in),” Heineman explains. “When we start talking about our side of the equation, Nebraska Emergency Management and FEMA, it’s public infrastructure in particular. And so, these determinations are way too early. We need to assess the damage. That’s going to take some time.”
Heineman says he will use the Governor’s Emergency Fund to cover activation of the National Guard and other costs. He says 20 National Guard members are on standby today at the Wayne Armory, ready to assist wherever they are needed in Stanton County.
Susan Risinger, WJAG, contributed to this story.