As snow batters Panhandle, tornado strikes Wayne, Neb. -
Published Saturday, October 5, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 6:48 pm
As snow batters Panhandle, tornado strikes Wayne, Neb.

WAYNE, Neb. — Logan McPhillips had just pulled into his driveway about 5:30 p.m. Friday when he heard the sirens sound.

Emerging later from his home, he saw half of his wooden fence and shed were damaged. He was thankful it wasn't worse.

“How the tornado didn't (directly) hit us,” McPhillips said, “I just don't know.”

Later, the 26-year-old saw trees uprooted, shingles and lawn decorations scattered and a shocking sight: much of Wayne's eastern industrial area demolished.

The tornado that ripped through this community injured 15 people — one critically — leveled about 10 buildings and damaged about five others, said Fire Chief Phil Monahan.

About 10 homes outside Wayne were damaged, too.

There were no reports of fatalities.

It was the second straight day of wild October weather across the Midlands, ranging from a blizzard in western Nebraska's Panhandle to tornadoes near Sioux City, Iowa.

Three people died Friday in a car crash east of Crawford, Neb., an accident blamed on slippery roads.

In northwest Iowa, a mile-wide tornado was spotted shortly before 7 p.m. Friday in Moville, in Woodbury County.

“We've got over 30 homes and outbuildings with either major damage or destroyed,” said Jim Clark, a county spokesman.

No major injuries or storm-­related deaths were reported in Iowa.

Five tornadoes also touched down in Dixon County, Neb., but damage reports were not available.

Most of the damage in Wayne occurred in a several-block area on either side of Nebraska Highway 35, the main road through town. Gov. Dave Heineman issued an emergency declaration for the town of about 10,000.

Among the damaged or destroyed buildings: Wayne East gas station, a John Deere implement business, Diest Chemical and the Wayne softball complex, said Jay Collier, spokesman for Wayne State College.

Collier said the college was not hit.

Ryan Burns, a 23-year-old Wayne State senior, said the Deere building was flattened. Another business, Sand Creek Post and Beam, a barn maker, was “tilted on its side.''

Mayor Ken Chamberlain said most of the buildings at Wayne Municipal Airport were demolished. Monahan said the losses at two agriculture equipment companies would be in the millions of dollars because of damaged equipment.

Nearly every fire department within a 70-mile radius sent help to Wayne. Firefighters were going through damaged buildings a second time, Chamberlain said.

People were trapped for a while in one of Wayne's buildings, and a hazardous materials crew was called to evaluate a gas leak at a supply company, said Jodie Fawl, spokeswoman for the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency. The gas leak proved to be a false alarm.

One patient with traumatic injuries caused by the tornado was initially treated at Wayne's Providence Medical Center, then taken to Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City, said Sandra Bartling, a Providence spokeswoman.

Providence also treated seven “walking wounded” patients, though the nature of their injuries was unclear, Bartling said. The hospital had seven more patients injured in auto accidents that were weather-­related.

The hospital was in disaster mode, and all of its staff had been called in.

McPhillips said he and his wife went down to the Wayne softball complex, which he called “a mess.''

“Three or four or field lights had fallen over, and the shed where they held all their field equipment in was destroyed, and it was all over the place,” he said.

Emergency managers asked Wayne residents to stay away from the damaged areas, Collier said, because “their presence is hindering emergency operations and emergency response.” He said Wayne State had provided a trailer with Internet access and cellphone service for emergency management workers.

Said Chamberlain: “We don't want somebody to walk into a building and have it collapse on them and we don't know they're there.”

Cleanup will probably begin today, he added.

“This isn't anything that's going to slow us down. There will be some businesses that have some rebuilding to do, but we'll come back even stronger.”

Live coverage: The aftermath of Friday's tornado in Wayne, Neb.

Nebraska tornadoes by month since 1950

According to National Weather Service records, Thursday's tornado was the first in October in Nebraska since 2001.

Dating to 1950, Nebraska has seen 76 October tornadoes, the sixth-lowest monthly total.

Jan. Feb. March Apr. May June July Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec.
6 2 64 243 739 917 360 166 58 76 3 2

World-Herald staff writers Emerson Clarridge, Andrew J. Nelson and Alissa Skelton contributed to this report, which includes material from The World-Herald News Service.

Contact the writer: Emily Nohr    |   402-444-1192    |  

Emily covers Papillion, La Vista, Gretna and Springfield, as well as metro-area roads.

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