Johanns

U.S. SEN. MIKE JOHANNS spent time in Coleridge and Pilger on Thursday to see for himself the damage caused by tornadoes earlier this week. Here, he visits with some Pilger residents who were taking a break in the Pilger Park from clean-up efforts.

PILGER — U.S. Sen Mike Johanns pledged to work with state and local officials to assure federal aid for tornado-ravaged Pilger’s recovery.

“I know there will be federal assistance. I won’t guarantee to anybody that they will be made whole,’’ Johanns told reporters Thursday before going table to table in the Pilger park to talk with families and volunteers taking a lunch break from the cleanup.

“We will make sure it is available as soon as we can . . . I think it will happen fairly quickly.’’

Johanns, who also traveled Thursday to Coleridge to see tornado damage there, urged people to document losses where they can in order to make dealing with Washington, D.C., easier.

  He toured the destruction and talked later with livestock producers at the Feller and Company feedlot near Wisner, who lost cattle to the tornado. Earlier in the day, he met state, local and county officials involved in the recovery, including village clerk Kimberly Neiman.  

“He offered his (sympathies) for our town being destroyed, and he said he would be looking into federal funding and making sure that that was pushed through,’’ Neiman said. “He said he will do everything in his power to make sure we’re able to get all the opportunities.’’

Neiman lost her house in the tornado as did village board Chairman Jim Duncan, who was injured.

“Jim is fine, and I’ve been in contact with him,’’ she said. “He gave his proxy to me to sign a declaration of disaster.’’

Neiman, clerk for 18 years, has been acting as village representative inside the incident command trailer. Village board members are involved in the cleanup as well.

“Our vice chair, Amber Labenz, has been handling heavy equipment check-in yesterday and today,’’ she said. “Dennis Wolverton helped in boxing up stuff from my office, which is gone, and boxing up bunker gear in the fire hall because that building will be coming down. Tim Sweeney works for the co-op and has been extremely busy down there.’’

Kory Koehlmoos doubles as fire chief and has been involved in incident command.

“It’s very devastating to not only look at my house, but also the whole town. It’s just really hard,’’ she said.

In other news

CLEVELAND (AP) — The nation’s three dominant drug distributors — including Cardinal Health — and a big drugmaker have reached a $260 million deal to settle a lawsuit related to the opioid crisis just as the first federal trial over the crisis was due to begin Monday.

DALLAS (AP) — Crews searched Monday through the rubble of homes and businesses torn apart by a tornado that ripped through the Dallas area the night before, and one person was killed by a falling tree in Arkansas as the storms moved to the northeast.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Defense Secretary Mark Esper says he is discussing an option that would keep a small residual U.S. military force in northeast Syria to secure oil fields and continue the fight against Islamic State militants.