PILGER — Even though there still were several hours of daylight Monday after tornadoes struck the Stanton and Pilger regions, it was still too early Tuesday morning to have anything close to an official assessment of damage totals.
Complicating matters was that the damage was so widespread, especially in rural areas. Also, phone service is limited or not working in some places because of downed lines or cell towers having been damaged or destroyed.
Sanford Goshorn, Stanton County emergency manager, said lots of areas were impacted by the tornadoes, but Pilger was hit the hardest. The town was evacuated Monday evening for everyone’s safety, and only residents were let back in Tuesday.
“There will be no cleanup today (Tuesday),” Goshorn said. “Only people who own property will be allowed in today.”
Cleanup is expected to take days.
“Tomorrow (Wednesday), we will start cleaning up with heavy equipment. I don’t know what time. We’ll know later,” Goshorn said Tuesday morning.
Additional details were expected to be released later Tuesday.
Goshorn said there was no organized effort to help the rural residents affected by the storms — just neighbors helping neighbors. If buildings or houses aren’t inhabitable, the structures are being pushed in, he said.
Mike Unger, Stanton County sheriff, said Tuesday morning that residents of Pilger will be the only ones allowed in town until 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Volunteer cleanup efforts were to begin Wednesday, Unger said.
Several victims of the tornado were initially located near Main Street in Pilger and taken to Faith Regional Health Services in Norfolk with those suffering critical injuries transported by area rescue units, Unger said.
Weighing heavily on everyone’s minds — much more than the extensive property damage — was the 5-year-old child who died in Pilger as a result of injuries suffered in the Monday afternoon storm, as well as a man who died in a Cuming County traffic accident that was attributed to the weather.
Calista Dixon, 5, died after suffering injuries inside a mobile home on Main Street in Pilger, Unger said. Her mother remained at Creighton University Medical Center in critical condition.
Cuming County officials said 74-year-old David Herout of Clarkson died when his vehicle left the roadway about 4:50 p.m. about 2.5 miles east of Pilger during the height of the storm. Herout was ejected from the vehicle, Unger said.
Mark Becker, Nebraska Public Power District media relations specialist, said NPPD crews were out since the storm hit Monday, repairing power lines.
NPPD crews were assisting Northeast Nebraska Public Power District and Stanton Public Power District crews. It likely will take days to get all the lines repaired, including some major ones, he said.
People should not drive over transmission lines they encounter, Becker said. Among the lines that need to be repaired:
— Up to two miles of wire are down around Stanton.
— A line roughly from Hoskins to Dakota City has many places that need repair, including eight structures down.
— A major 345-kilovolt line in the region is down.
— Another line from Hoskins to a substation in Iowa is down, including a steel lattice tower.
There were several power outages Monday and early Tuesday. In Norfolk, 627 customers were without power east of the North Fork River from shortly before 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday.
Another 747 customers in Norfolk were out when another storm came through about 9:45 p.m. They remained without power until 1:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Also, there are widespread outages with some of NPPD’s wholesale customers, Becker said. Some places have had power restored even though lines are down using backup or redundant lines, Becker said.
Chris Uttecht, principal at Wisner-Pilger High School, said the American Red Cross set up a shelter at Wisner-Pilger High School for anyone needing a place to stay after the tornado.
Uttecht said he didn’t know how many people stayed Monday night, but the American Red Cross has cots, hot meals and showers available.