Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) assistant director Al Berndt is touring damage caused by a major snowstorm this past weekend in western Nebraska. NET News talked with Berndt about the destruction from that storm, and a tornado that struck Wayne, Neb. Friday, causing extensive damage.
On the tornado destruction in Wayne:
AL BERNDT: Both times I flew into Wayne and it's a little overwhelming when you look at first from the air and then of course you get on the ground, seeing the power of the storm that moved through Wayne. But then you also think literally how lucky the community was that in a sense, the storm came in on the south side of town and cut across the eastern edge, and basically, other than those farm homes in the country, it pretty much missed the town other than that industrial area. So in terms of what potentially could have been a large number of people injured and a loss of life, I think the town itself was rather fortunate in terms of the area that the tornado struck.
BERNDT: I would hate to give an estimate because I really don't know. We have a lot of inventory in like the three implement dealers that were struck in terms of their inventory. And also the inventory of the Pacific Feather Manufacturing Company there. The airport alone, the loss of the airport is about a $5 million impact to the community, and while there was I believe two hangers that weren't touched, they said that approximately 42 planes were housed at the airport. Probably the majority of those destroyed.
On the prospect of federal funds to help with recovery efforts:
BERNDT: We're approaching this in a pretty holistic sense in that this same system actually stretched from about the second of October through the fifth. And that we had heavy rains in the central part of the state and we had counties reporting a lot of roads and bridges were still underwater. Water had to go down before they could do an accurate assessment on the damages there. In addition to the tornado in Wayne, of course we had a tornado that went across southern Lancaster County, southeast Nebraska. It was on the ground for about 30 miles. And then up in Thurston County, there was about an EF-2 tornado struck the town of Macy and I believe there were seven homes totally destroyed and 12 - 15 homes in total either destroyed or with major damage. We're looking at kind of all the impacts on the eastern side of the state in terms of power line damage, damage to the public infrastructure. And then we're also trying to couple that with, because this same system is what put the snowstorm out through the panhandle.
On the damage caused by the snowstorm in the panhandle:
BERNDT: On the public side of the ledger sheet, we're hearing about, of course there's going to be power infrastructure damage because of the lines, all of the electrical grid being taken down in for instance in Chadron, Crawford, etc. there's going to be damage to the public power districts getting that back. Then there's going to be the large amount of trees we're being told that it brought down. And of course that in itself presents another problem in terms of cleaning up the trees, the debris from the storm. The city getting a dumpsite established so they can make decisions about the disposal of those trees -- whether they're burnt, whether they're ground up, exactly what goes along with it. That's the public side of the ledger. Probably the more significant impact is the reports coming in from the ranching community of the loss of livestock that succumb to the effects of the storm. I have talked to one rancher who lost 300 head of his cattle, and this is just the ones they've been able to get to. He has other cattle that are still out on summer pasture out in Sioux County they haven't been able to get to. So they don't know the full extent. Reports of in excess of 100 head of cattle froze to death, died in the pins at the livestock auction in Crawford and initial information is talking that the loss of livestock could be in the thousands. That presents another problem in terms of disposal of the carcasses and how you handle that and because of the nature of the storm and now the melting that's going to take some time for those ranchers to not only find their cattle but get to them.