Fire departments from Cordova and Beaver Crossing received recognition for their response to the Mother’s Day storm that did $20 million in damage to the two cities, plus Sutton.
The Cordova and the Beaver Crossing Fire Departments received the Excellence in Community Preparedness Award during the “Be Prepared” awards presentations in the governor’s office today.
Cordova Fire Department President Robert Pagel stated during the ceremony the storm took out power, limiting communications vital to helping those in need in wake of the storms and tornadoes that struck Nebraska.
“Immediately, we set up an emergency command center in the community building and that’s kind of where everybody came,” Pagel said. “We put us up a big board and wrote instructions: who to get ahold of for what, what did you need, come see us, and we can assess you from there.”
A massive storm struck Nebraska Mother’s Day, May 11th, packing severe weather, including tornadoes. The storms seemed to come out of nowhere.
Beaver Crossing Fire Chief Scott Petersen credited the tornado sirens with saving lives.
“There are a lot of people I spoke to afterward who were out grilling for Mother’s Day and had no idea about the weather,” Peterson said, adding that when the tornado sirens went off, residents headed for their basements. “Had it not been for that I think we would have lost many, many lives.”
Both Petersen and Pagel praised the work of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, which they said was vital to recovery efforts.
Volunteers from neighboring communities worked wonders as well, according to the men.
Pagel said he had been working for nearly 18 hours straight when he finally emerged from the emergency command center, astounded by the work of volunteers who came to clear trees and debris.
“I couldn’t believe how many of the trees and stuff were moved already. Those guys just went to work,” Pagel said. “They’d come in. They’d eat dinner and say, ‘Where do you want us next?’ I’d point a direction. They didn’t ask any questions. They just went to work.”
Here are the “Be Prepared” award winners:
The Beaver Crossing and Cordova Fire Departments were presented with an Excellence in Community Preparedness Award.
Ron Pughes of Edgar was presented with an Excellence in Community Preparedness Award.
Nicholas Kemnitz, Wayne County Emergency Manager, received the 2014 Local Hero Award.
The Nebraska Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster also received the 2014 Local Hero Award.
The Citizen Corps Volunteer of the Year Award was presented to Ken Hermsen of Omaha.
Mark Robertson, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator University of Nebraska – Lincoln Police Department, received the Excellence in Risk Communication Award.
Tom McMahon of Omaha was recognized with the Excellence in Preparedness Education and Outreach Award.