More storms forecast on heels of wild weekend -
Published Tuesday, May 28, 2013 at 12:30 am / Updated at 6:02 pm
Just another manic Monday
More storms forecast on heels of wild weekend

Video: Tree hits house in Council Bluffs

Photos: hereSevere weather showcase

Update: A tornado watch has been issued for Gage, Nemaha, Richardson, Otoe, Jefferson, Johnson and Pawnee Counties until 10 p.m. CDT.


The remainder of the week could be much like the holiday weekend – rainy and stormy.

The Omaha area could see rain and thunderstorms late today into Thursday. This would be on top of the nearly 3 inches that fell in Valley over the weekend and the 1.24 inches recorded at Eppley Airfield through Tuesday morning.

The metro area won't dry out until the weekend, when cooler weather will reduce the chance of storms, said Jaclyn Gomez with the National Weather Service in Valley.

The threat of storms across Nebraska and western Iowa comes as many communities continue to clean up from hail, high winds, possible tornadoes and flooding.

A couple hundred customers in the metro area remained without power early Tuesday, but that number had dwindled to fewer than 10 just before mid-day. At its peak, the outage affected 6,305 Omaha Public Power District customers hit by an early Monday storm that downed tree limbs and power lines.

MidAmerican Energy said it had restored all outages in the Council Bluffs area by late Monday.

Extra crews were called out to address the outages scattered across the metro area. Many calls to OPPD were about limbs on wires that were threatening to cause an outage.

"They are just running fast and furious trying to get to things as quickly as they can,” Jodi Baker, an OPPD spokeswoman, said of repair crews.

The prospect of more rain has many Iowans on flood alert. One northwest Iowa couple had to be rescued Monday afternoon when the Willow Creek inched up the front porch of their home on the northeast side of Le Mars following 4 inches of rain over the weekend.

Stephanie Luecke said she and her husband, Ray, had never seen the creek rise so quickly. The water “surrounded us like an island,” she said.

The National Weather Service on Tuesday issued flood warnings for western Iowa, including Monona, Mills and Fremont Counties.

The warning for Monona County was specifically for the Little Sioux River near the town of Turin, said Jim Meyer, a meterologist with the National Weather Service in Omaha. This has to do with heavy flooding further upriver.

"That is mainly due to all the runoff coming into it," he said. "Northwest Iowa, they have been kinda clobbered the past few days and nights."

The river near Turin was within two feet of flood stage earlier this afternoon. "We're looking at it going above flood stage there this evening," Meyer said early Tuesday afternoon.

Flood warnings for Mills and Fremont Counties are tied to the Missouri River, which is expected to go above flood stage at Plattsmouth late tomorrow evening.

There is no flooding yet in these counties, as of Tuesday afternoon, but it is expected, Meyer said.

Meyer said those who live or work near waterways in western Iowa should be watchful. "If we dump more rain into them, of course, we can expect some additional rises."

Hail was the biggest problem in many Nebraska communities. Residents in Phelps and Harlan Counties in south-central Nebraska reported hailstones as big as 1.75 inches in diameter, the weather service reported. Republican City in nearby Franklin County had hail the size of golf balls.

But that was nothing compared with tennis-ball-sized hail that pelted Kansas' Jewell County, which borders Nebraska. One hailstone there measured 5.25 inches across, according to a trained weather spotter there.

The severe weather also spawned a number of tornado reports. Sirens sounded in Beatrice while a tornadic thunderstorm passed over the southern edge of the city and rural areas east of the Gage County seat in southeast Nebraska. The accompanying heavy rain flooded several intersections in Beatrice.

Jefferson County sheriff's deputies reported possible tornado damage to farm buildings north of Diller. Buildings along Nebraska Highway 103 were impaled with flying boards and power lines were down.

A tornado was reported five miles northwest of Kimball in the southern Panhandle at 2:05 p.m. Ten minutes later, a storm spotter saw two tornadoes 11 miles north of Kimball. A Kimball County deputy sheriff observed a tornado six miles northwest of Dix before the funnel lifted off the ground 12 miles northwest of Potter.

About 80 miles north of Kimball in Sioux County, a law enforcement officer reported a tornado 15 to 20 miles southeast of Harrison at 3:44 p.m. Monday. A tornado -- possibly the same twister -- was spotted 20 minutes later about 18 miles west of Hemingford in Box Butte County.

The storm that hit the Fremont Lakes State Recreation Area near the Platte River west of Fremont earlier Monday may ve been a tornado, according to weather service radar.

If so, it wasn't very destructive, said Dave Eastlack, a weather service meteorologist in Valley. There were no immediate reports of major damage.

Wind speeds of 77 mph were measured at Fremont Municipal Airport. Radar had detected a possible tornado northwest of Fremont. The cloud moved through Fremont and north of Valley before weakening.

James Sykes, 26, of Lincoln, was camping with family members at Fremont Lakes when a phone alert notified him about the tornado warning. He said he loaded his daughter and two nephews into his pickup truck and left the campsite. They joined other family members at a cousin's house in Fremont to ride out the storm.

After the damaging front line of the storm moved out, wind-smashed, abandoned tents and tree limbs littered the recreation area. Dale Davis of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission used a fishing pole to retrieve a tent in the lake. Davis said he had to make sure no one was inside.

In Dodge, Washington and Douglas Counties, residents woke to tornado sirens about 1:30 a.m. Monday, but no official tornado sightings were reported.

Winds Monday morning took down trees and power lines across Dodge County -- immediately northwest of the Omaha metropolitan area before moving into Douglas County.

Ernie Hutchens was sitting in her Council Bluffs living room at 9:30 a.m. Monday when she heard a crash and saw the leaves and branches of a silver maple sailing past her bay window.

Without looking, she knew where the big 50-year-old tree had come to rest.

“It's laying right on top of my house,” she said.

The tree took out her front steps, railing and gutters.

High wind damaged the stage at River's Edge Park. Crews repaired the damage for bands in a Playing With Fire concert series that was held Monday evening.

If the recent outbreak of severe weather feels worse than normal, it isn't, Eastlack said.

April started on a quiet note this year, and it wasn't until May that much of the Midwest began to experience spring storms.

“It was just a matter of time,” Eastlack said.

Historically, May and June are the biggest months for tornadoes in Nebraska. Eastlack said he expects more severe weather remains on the horizon.

“My gut feeling tells me that we're going to have a busy, busy June,” he said.

World-Herald staff writers Susan Szalewski, Chris Machian and David Hendee contributed to this report, which includes material from the Associated Press.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1052,

Contact the writer: Lizzie Johnson    |   402-444-1037    |  

Lizzie is a breaking news reporter, which basically means all things weather- or crime-related.

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