Pillen issues emergency alert for Douglas, Lancaster, Washington counties

April 26, 2024, 3:20 p.m. ·

Tornado Damage
Tornado Damage outside of Omaha. (Photo by Nick Meyer)

State officials and first responders continue to work on cleanup and plan the next steps after a series of confirmed tornadoes hit the state of Nebraska on Friday, including in the Lincoln and Omaha areas.

One of, if not the hardest hit area, was Elkhorn on the outskirts of Omaha. Numerous homes were leveled in the suburb, as well as in nearby Blair, but no loss of life has been reported.

The storms hit the Omaha metro shortly before 4 p.m. after a tornado hit northeast Lincoln, crossed Interstate 80, and moved to Waverly around 3 p.m.

An additional twister hit Eppley Airfield. No damage was done to the terminal, but numerous office buildings were destroyed. An airport official said four hangars that housed 31 private aircrafts were destroyed.

In a Saturday afternoon briefing, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said 78 tornados had been spawned by the storm system across the region. The Omaha office of the National Weather Service said it was the most warnings its office had ever issued in a single day.

The communities of Waterloo and Bennington were also significantly impacted by the tornadoes.

On Sunday, Gov. Jim Pillen issued an emergency declaration for Douglas, Lancaster, and Washington counties, allowing them to receive additional funds to help with recovery.

"It is remarkable there was no loss of life," Pillen said at a press conference on Saturday.

The Nebraska Weather Service said the tornado that started in Lincoln and headed northeast and hit Elkhorn and Blair was an EF-3 tornado with winds between 135-165 mph. The one that struck near Eppley was an EF-2.

While no deaths were reported, there were injuries.

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Damage to a building outside of Omaha. (Photo by Aaron Bonderson)

Bryan Health in Lincoln announced Friday afternoon that the trauma center at Bryan West Campus treated two patients who sustained injuries from tornadoes in Lancaster County.

In Omaha and the surrounding areas, only minor injuries have been reported, and Omaha Police say anyone who was injured has been treated and released.

NWS continued to survey impacted areas and said that process could take a while.

The City of Omaha announced that at 209th and Park Drive, there will be a free debris drop-off site that can be used to help with cleanup from storm damage.

Damage across the state was widespread.

Garner Industries, located on the outskirts of Waverly, suffered significant damage. The roof was peeled back and debris was thrown all around the area.

A train was also derailed near Waverly due to the strong storm system.

Areas of Central Nebraska were also impacted by tornadoes late Friday afternoon as warnings were issued throughout the area. Near Farwell, a tornado was spotted that overturned several irrigation pivots and downed power lines in the area. Widespread power outages were reported in the village of Wolbach in Greeley County following a tornado warning at around 2:30 p.m.

On the outskirts of Waverly, Randy Colton's home and property were damaged by a twister that passed through.

Dozens of neighbors were on the scene an hour later with skid loaders and trailers to begin cleaning up a scene of mangled plywood thrown up to 100 yards away.

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Damage to property near Waverly. (Photo by Brian Beach)

Colton says no one was hurt on his property from the storm.

“I lost two hundred-foot buildings and some equipment, and it knocked all the windows out of the house, but it's all good,” Colton said.