May 20th, 2024

Midwest tornadoes cause severe damage in Omaha suburbs

By Josh Funk And Heather Hollingsworth, The Associated Press on April 26, 2024.

A tornado moves through suburbs northwest of Omaha on Friday, April 26, 2024, as seen from Bennington, Neb. (Chris Gannon via AP)

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – A tornado plowed through suburban Omaha, Nebraska, on Friday afternoon, damaging hundreds of homes and other structures as the twister tore for miles along farmland and into subdivisions. Injuries were reported but it wasn’t yet clear if anyone was killed in the storm.

Multiple tornadoes were reported in Nebraska but the most destructive storm moved from a largely rural area into suburbs northwest of Omaha, a city of 485,000 people.

Photos on social media showed heavily damaged homes and shredded trees. Video showed homes with roofs stripped of shingles, in a rural area near Omaha. Law enforcement were blocking off roads in the area.

Hundreds of houses sustained damage in Omaha, mostly in the Elkhorn area in the western part of the city, police Lt. Neal Bonacci said.

Police and firefighters are now going door-to-door helping people who are trapped.

“We are getting 911 calls of people in debris in their basement,” he said. “We are just working as quick as we can to help everyone who needs it.”

He said the injuries are minor so far and he was not aware of any damaged businesses.

“There’s lots of trees down. There’s roofs missing from houses. You definitely see the path of the tornado,” Bonacci said.

In one area of Elkhorn, dozens of newly built, large homes were damaged. At least six were destroyed, including one that was leveled, while others had the top half ripped off.

There were dozens of emergency vehicles in the area.

Dhaval Naik, who said he works with the man whose house was demolished, said three people, including a child, were in the basement when the tornado hit. They got out safely.

KETV-TV video showed one woman being removed from a demolished home on a stretcher in Blair, a city just north of Omaha.

Another tornado hit an area on the western edge of Omaha, passing directly through parts of Eppley Airfield, the city’s airport. Officials closed the airport to aircraft operations and were assessing any damage in the area, Omaha Airport Authority Chief Strategy Officer Steve McCoy said.

“We have folks in the terminal that are in shelters right now, but the airport is currently closed,” he said, adding that he wasn’t aware of any injuries. Flight delays are likely, he said.

After passing through the airport, the tornado crossed the Missouri River and into Iowa, north of Council Bluffs.

Nebraska Emergency Management Agency spokesperson Katrina Sperl said damage is just now being reported. Taylor Wilson, a spokesperson for the University of Nebraska Medical Center, said they hadn’t seen any injuries yet.

Before the tornado hit the Omaha area, three workers in an industrial plant were injured Friday afternoon when a tornado struck an industrial plant in Lancaster County, sheriff’s officials said in an update on the damage.

The building just northeast of the state capital of Lincoln had collapsed with about 70 employees inside and several people trapped, sheriff’s officials said. Everyone was evacuated, and three people had injuries that were considered not life-threatening, authorities said.

Sheriff’s officials say they also had reports of a tipped-over train near Waverly, also in Lancaster County.

The Omaha Public Power District reported that nearly 10,000 customers were without power in the Omaha area.

Daniel Fienhold, manager of the Pink Poodle Steakhouse in Crescent, Iowa, said he was outside watching the weather with his daughter and restaurant employees. He said “it looked like a pretty big tornado was forming” northeast of town.

“It started raining, and then it started hailing, and then all the clouds started to kind of swirl and come together, and as soon as the wind started to pick up, that’s when I headed for the basement, but we never saw it,” Fienhold said.

The Weather Service also issued tornado watches across parts of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. And forecasters warned that large hail and damaging wind gusts were possible.

___

Hollingsworth reported from Mission, Kansas. Associated Press writers Margery A. Beck in Omaha, Jack Dura in Bismarck, North Dakota, and Jeff Martin in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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