OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — As many as nine tornadoes — at least one rated a powerful EF3 — touched down across northeast Nebraska and northwest Iowa as a storm cell moved over the region Friday evening, causing structural damage and injuries but no fatalities, the National Weather Service said Saturday.
Damage assessment crews from the weather service were touring areas of suspected tornado damage Saturday in Nebraska and Iowa to determine how many tornadoes there were and the paths they took, said meteorologist Mike Fuhs in the National Weather Service’s Sioux Falls, S.D., office.
Preliminary reports show there were two tornadoes in northeast Nebraska around 6 p.m. Friday, including one that the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency said Saturday was an EF3 with winds between 136 and 165 mph that damaged at least 10 homes and dozens of businesses.
Despite the massive damage, no one was killed. Fifteen people were treated for injuries in Wayne.
The weather service said one person suffered critical injuries. Officials have not released the person’s name.
Gov. Dave Heineman, who issued an emergency declaration for the Wayne area Friday night, was set to fly to the region Sunday to survey tornado damage in Wayne and Macy.
Another Nebraska tornado just five miles north of Emerson may have originated in South Dakota, Fuhs said.
In Iowa, it appears there were tornadoes north and south of Sioux City, including one at Sloan, as well as those west and north of Hinton, east of Moville, at Quimby and one south of Cherokee, Fuhs said.
“A couple of those may be the same tornado,” he said. “But right now it’s looking like we had at least six to eight.”
Twenty farmsteads in northwestern Iowa’s Woodbury County alone were destroyed, and about 60 more were damaged by at least three tornadoes, county Emergency Management Director Gary Brown said Saturday.
“There’s a lot of cleanup to do here,” he said. “There’s a lot of damage.”
Brown said the storms cut a path 35 miles long through the county, from Sloan to Pierson.
Only one minor injury was reported in northwest Iowa, resulting from a car accident associated with the storm.
A number of livestock, however, were killed.
Brown said at least a couple of hundred residences along the storm’s path were without power by midday Saturday, mostly in rural areas. Some phone service also was interrupted.
Videos and photos taken by the public and posted online show extensive damage. The images show a number of businesses destroyed, including a farm equipment store and grain elevator in Wayne. Many other businesses and homes stretching from Wayne to Cherokee, Iowa, are missing roofs and sections of walls. Windows in buildings and vehicles have been smashed. A semitrailer and tractor can be seen overturned in some photos.
The tornadoes also took down two transmission lines and damaged 20 wooden power poles and H-frame structures in Nebraska, according to Nebraska Public Power District spokesman Mark Becker.
Messages left for the Northeast Nebraska Public Power District, which serves the city of Wayne, were not immediately returned Saturday to confirm or dispel reports of outages in and around Wayne.
Wayne Mayor Ken Chamberlin said in a written statement late Saturday that damage to the community is in the millions of dollars.
“The rebuilding process will be lengthy,” Chamberlin said. “It’s really heart wrenching to see all the damage, but I have all confidence in this community. We have had a ton of volunteers. It’s been phenomenal.”
Friday’s tornado-spawning storms were a rare occurrence, Fuhs said.
“This far north, it’s pretty unusual to get not just this many tornadoes this late, but tornadoes this strong,” he said.
Fuhs said a couple of the tornadoes were estimated to have been one-quarter to one-half mile wide.