PILGER, Neb. (AP) — A storm packing rare dual tornadoes tore through a tiny farming town in northeast Nebraska, killing two people, crumpling grain bins like discarded soda cans and flattening dozens of homes.
Pilger’s 350 residents evacuated their homes after the powerful twisters slammed the area Monday afternoon. Nebraska State Patrol closed all roads into town.
“More than half of the town is gone – absolutely gone,” Stanton County Commissioner Jerry Weatherholt said. “The co-op is gone, the grain bins are gone, and it looks like almost every house in town has some damage. It’s a complete mess.”
Larry Nelson, 73, has lived in Pilger, about 80 miles northwest of Omaha, for 23 years. He rode out the storm in his neighbor’s basement, emerging later to find his home completely gone.
“I’m grateful I was over there,” Nelson said.
Another resident, Trey Wisniewski, said first his weather radio alerted him, then the power went out and the tornado sirens started to sound. The sky went black and he and his wife took their pets into the basement.
“My wife was holding our animals and I was holding on to my wife. We could feel the suction try to pull is out of there,” said Wisniewski, 43. “It wasn’t raining. It was raining debris.”
Stanton County Sheriff Mike Unger estimated that 50 to 75 percent of Pilger was heavily damaged or destroyed and the school was likely beyond repair.