August 1, 2015

Morale improves as Pilger recovers from tornado damage

Stanton County Sheriff Mike Unger isn’t sure if the village of Pilger looks better or worse after volunteers have spent a week clearing away debris in wake of an EF-4 tornado.

Unger says some of the cleared areas look like an atomic bomb went off. But, overall, Unger sees signs of improvement.

“I think the biggest improvement is on morale and attitudes,” according to Unger. “I think people are passed that initial shock and are moving forward.”

The co-op, a major employer in Pilger, has announced plans to rebuild. Midwest Bank indicates it will remain in the community. Both served as big morale boosters for a town hanging on the hope of recovery in wake of a tornado that destroyed nearly three-quarters of the town.

The number of volunteers helping with clean up reached two thousand over the weekend.

Stanton County Sheriff Mike Unger says this week the clean-up emphasis might shift away from human hands to heavy equipment.

“We need a lull where we can get foot traffic to an absolute minimum and get the heavy equipment that we have in place and that we still need, get that moving via actual buildings and destroyed homes,” according to Unger.

Unger says volunteers will be needed for weeks, perhaps even months.

The outpouring of support for the Stanton County village of Pilger has nearly overwhelmed the sheriff. Unger paused in his work to aid recovery to thank all of the volunteers and those who made financial contributions to the recovery effort.

“We just thank them. This is not just a Pilger event. This is a Stanton County event. This is a northeast Nebraska event,” Unger says. “We can’t forget the folks up in Wakefield. We can’t forget the folks around Stanton. We certainly don’t forget the folks from last October in Wayne. And I know Beaver Crossing is here helping us and they just went through this. And yet they’re up here helping us.”

Susan Risinger, WJAG, contributed to this article.

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