The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

June 17, 2014

Tornadoes flatten tiny Nebraska town; 1 child dies

— PILGER, Neb. (AP) — A storm packing rare dual tornadoes tore through a tiny farming town in northeast Nebraska, killing a 5-year-old girl, leaving grain bins crumpled like discarded soda cans and flattening dozens of homes.

All the residents of the town of Pilger — some 350 people — evacuated their homes, many leaving for shelters in nearby towns, after the powerful twisters slammed the area Monday afternoon. Nebraska State Patrol 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 about 80 miles northwest of Omaha.

Stanton County Sheriff Mike Unger estimated that 50 to 75 percent of Pilger was heavily damaged or destroyed in the storm. The local school is likely beyond repair, he said.

"It's total devastation," Unger said.

The storm was part of a larger system that started to track across the nation's midsection Monday afternoon. More stormy weather was forecast Tuesday in an area stretching from eastern Montana to New York. The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, said powerful winds, large hail and a few tornadoes are possibly, particularly in Iowa, Wisconsin and northern Illinois.

The Stanton County Sheriff's Office said a 5-year-old child was killed but did not identify the child further or provide details of the circumstances of the death. Stanton County Sheriff's deputy Josh Bennett said the child killed was a girl.

At least 19 people were taken to hospitals for treatment.

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

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