Tornadoes to the east and a blizzard to the west prompted Gov. Dave Heineman to issue an emergency declaration for areas of the state hit hard by two very different weather extremes this past weekend.
Heineman toured the tornado damage in Wayne Sunday.
Lt. Gov. Lavon Heidemann and Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Assistant Director Al Berndt will travel Panhandle tomorrow to help with recovery efforts there.
Western Nebraska got between 9 and 13 inches of snow, according to the National Weather Service. Three people died after the car they were riding in near Crawford lost control on the slick pavement and crashed into a semi tractor-trailer.
“The damaged suffered in our communities as a result of the severe winter storm and tornadoes is extensive,” Heineman said in a written statement released by his office. “I have asked the Lt. Governor to be on the ground in the Chadron area to see damage first-hand. Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and other state agencies are working diligently to assess the situation and support local efforts. My thoughts are with the Nebraska families affected by the severe storms we have recently experienced throughout the state.”
While eastern Nebraska got hit by severe spring-like storms, including an EF4 tornado that touched down on the outskirts of Wayne, damaging houses and businesses, a severe winter-like storm blanketed western Nebraska in white.
Heidemann and Berndt will begin their tour in Chadron, meeting with local officials.
The state Emergency Operations Center has been closely coordinating with local emergency responders, especially the Region 23 Emergency Manager, Nan Gould. Region 23 encompasses Sioux, Dawes, Box Butte and Sheridan Counties.
Gould reports local emergency workers have begun clean-up of heavy debris caused by downed trees and power lines. A preliminary assessment shows heavy tree damage along the Highway 20 corridor from Rushville to Harrison, especially in Chadron and Crawford.
Local ranchers have reported heavy cattle losses after the storm caused temperatures in western Nebraska to plunge.
The Nebraska Department of Agriculture and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality will work with NEMA to assess the agricultural loss and try to determine how many head might have been lost. Livestock producers are being asked to keep detailed records of their losses.