Saturday 27 December 2014

Two killed as twin tornadoes sweep through US town

Grant Schulte

Published 18/06/2014 | 02:30

A tornado touches down near Pilger, Nebraska. Large tornadoes hit rural areas of northeastern Nebraska on Monday afternoon, with reports of property damage, according to forecasters and the Weather Channel.   Reuters
A tornado touches down near Pilger, Nebraska. Large tornadoes hit rural areas of northeastern Nebraska on Monday afternoon, with reports of property damage, according to forecasters and the Weather Channel. Reuters
A firefighter looks over the damaged cars and houses that were destroyed by a tornado that hit Pilger, Nebraska. AP
Rescue personnel tend to a young victim in Pilger, Nebraska. (AP Photo/Mark 'Storm' Farnik)
A woman walks down Black Hills Trail road in Pilger, Nebraska. (AP Photo/Mark 'Storm' Farnik)
Volunteers hand out bottled water to people following evacuation orders in Pilger, Nebraska. Reuters/Lane Hickenbottom
A tornado touches down near Pilger, Nebraska. Large tornadoes hit rural areas of northeastern Nebraska on Monday afternoon, with reports of property damage, according to forecasters and the Weather Channel. Reuters
Two tornadoes approaching Pilger, Nebraska. (AP Photo/StormChasingVideo.com)
Two tornados approach Pilger, Nebraska. (AP Photo/Eric Anderson)

A storm packing rare dual tornadoes tore through a tiny farming town in the US state of Nebraska, killing a motorist and a five-year-old girl, leaving grain bins crumpled like discarded beer cans and flattening dozens of homes.

Pilger's 350 residents evacuated their homes after the powerful twisters slammed the area on Monday afternoon, while police 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."

Emergency crews and residents spent the evening sifting through demolished homes and businesses in the town northwest of Omaha.

Stanton County Sheriff Mike Unger estimated that 50-75pc of Pilger was heavily damaged or destroyed and the school is likely beyond repair. "It's total devastation," he said.

The storm was part of a larger system that started to track across the US midsection on Monday afternoon.

More storms were forecast for today, stretching from eastern Montana to New York, but are unlikely to be as powerful as Monday's storms, said Steve Corfidi, lead forecaster at the Storm Prediction Centre in Norman, Oklahoma.

The Stanton County Sheriff's Office said a five-year-old child was killed in Pilger on Monday but did not identify the child further or provide details of the circumstances of the death. Stanton County Sheriff's deputy Josh Bennett said it was a girl.

Sheriff Unger said yesterday that a motorist also died in a single-vehicle accident just east of Pilger as the storm pounded the area. State patrol confirmed that a male driver died in Cuming County.

At least 19 people were taken to hospitals.

The US National Weather Service said the two twisters touched down within roughly a mile of each other. Crews planned to examine the area yesterday to determine the intensity of the unusual twin tornadoes, said Barbara Mayes, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

"It's less common for two tornadoes to track together for so long, especially with that same intensity," she said. "By no means is it unprecedented. But we don't see it often."

Damage

Authorities planned to allow residents to return yesterday morning to survey the damage and gather valuables. The Stanton County Sheriff's Office said law enforcement would escort residents to their homes.

Authorities said the first tornado touched down at around 3.45pm and downed several power lines before it levelled a farmhouse. The second tornado was spotted south-west of Pilger. Shortly afterward, the town suffered a "direct hit" that leveled several buildings.

Irish Independent

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