Nebraskans and Iowans cleaned up homes and farms and assessed damage Saturday along at least a 115-mile swath that tornadoes and harsh winds tore through Friday night.
Tornadoes pounded Nebraska communities, including Wayne and Macy, and rocked mainly rural areas in Woodbury, Plymouth, Cherokee and Buena Vista Counties in Iowa.
Parts of western Nebraska and South Dakota dealt Friday with another weather challenge. A blizzard deposited about 13 inches of snow in Crawford, Neb., 7 inches in Bayard, Neb., and close to 4 feet in Deadwood, S.D.
A meteorologist called the calamity in northeast Nebraska and western Iowa a “tornado outbreak” because multiple tornadoes grew from a single storm system. “There were at least three large tornadoes,” said Steve Travis of World-Herald weather consultant AccuWeather.
One hit Wayne, another landed on the Macy and Sloan, Iowa, area and a third struck the vicinity of Moville, Iowa, Travis said.
Two or more tornadoes swept over areas a half-mile wide and possibly much wider, he said. The storm traveled a crooked northeast path before losing much of its power about 9 p.m. Friday near Cherokee, Iowa, Travis said.
Pat Rogers, an insurance agent from Moville, said the storm carried over and around Iowa communities such as Bronson, Climbing Hill, Rock Branch and Pierson. “It kind of hopped around and hit various homesteads,” Rogers said.
Travis said conditions came together — a clash of cold and warm air masses, a rotation of winds in the atmosphere and a large amount of moisture in the air — for a rare early fall tornado outbreak.
Besides Wayne, Macy and Woodbury County, Iowa, were also hard hit.
Carol White Eyes, an emergency medical technician in Macy, said some believed the town would never be drilled by a tornado because of the way it's situated among hills. That proved to be myth when she saw the funnel barreling down southwest of Macy.
“It was just that quick, and it just hit,” White Eyes said.
She rushed to the nearby nursing home and saw the residents safely waiting it out in the hallway. Then police called White Eyes and EMT partner Isaac Sherman to downtown Macy. They raced to some mobile homes that were destroyed by wind and tree limbs.
“We were checking on the people in the trailers,” White Eyes said. “Thank God nobody was hurt bad.”
“My heart was pounding,” she said. “I was scared.”
White Eyes, 51, also thought about the safety of her two adult children, a granddaughter and a nephew at her home in Macy.
She said three trailer homes and another home in Macy appeared to be destroyed, and at least eight other homes were damaged.
As far as she knew, no serious injuries occurred. Personnel at the nearby Winnebago Indian Health Service checked out an elderly Macy couple, and they were all right.
White Eyes made it home at 11:30 p.m. Friday. Her family members were fine. “I kissed all of them before I went to bed,” she said.
About 20 rural homes were destroyed and 60 were damaged in Woodbury County, said Gary Brown, director of emergency management there.
Brown said it appeared three tornadoes set down in Woodbury County, the tornadoes varying in width from a few hundred yards to more than a half-mile. A person suffered a minor injury in a car accident in the storm near Sloan, he said.
Emergency management officials in Plymouth, Cherokee and Buena Vista Counties reported no injuries.
“That's just amazing,” said Gary Junge, emergency management coordinator in Plymouth County. “It seemed to veer away from most of the communities. ... The way it traveled, it missed a lot of populated areas.”
Aimee Barritt, emergency management coordinator in Buena Vista County, said 300 to 400 people took shelter in the Alta school when the storm rolled over the high school football game there.
The storm caused damage to the school roof and moved the air conditioning units on top of the school.
Ben Shuberg, emergency management director in Cherokee County, said power poles and lines fell near Washta, and there was tree damage near Washta and Quimby. Some farm outbuildings were damaged in his county but no homes that he knew of.
“We kind of lucked out,” Shuberg said.
Junge said farms sustained considerable damage to soybean and corn crops. Some farm buildings also were damaged and a barn was destroyed, he said. Power lines came down and possibly some livestock was lost, he said.
Business was slow Saturday afternoon at Pine Needle Quilts in Crawford. The northwest Nebraska town took a beating Friday from the blizzard.
“It's quite a mess,” Judi Frahm, one of the shop's owners, said. “Electricity comes and goes.”
Frahm said the blizzard also damaged many trees, which still had their canopies of leaves.
Crawford residents shoveled snow from the sidewalks and city crews cleared the streets. The heat was out at Frahm's home, so she went to work to stay warm.
“This part of the state is used to blizzards,” she said. “Just not this early.”