Wayne, Neb., tornado recovery continues

Nebraska Public Power District crews worked Friday to restore power in Wayne, Neb. Photo: Nebraska Emergency Management Agency

Nebraska Public Power District crews worked Friday to restore power in Wayne, Neb. Photo: Nebraska Emergency Management Agency

Story by: Kassi Nelson, Megan Conway, Meghin Williams, T.J. Henning, NewsNetNebraska.

Clean up continues in Wayne, Neb., after an EF4 tornado struck the city za week ago causing extensive damage.

According to the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, Nebraska Public Power District crews were still rebuilding power lines on the east side of Wayne and at the Wayne Airport.  Ten rigs worked on the line Thursday and Friday and hoped to have electricity back up and running this weekend.

Wayne County Emergency Manager Nic Kemnitz said high winds (40 miles per hour) are hampering some efforts Friday.“The buildings are starting to look better, Kemnitz said. “We are planning for an influx of about 1,000 volunteers this weekend.”

We talked to Nebraska Emergency Management Agency Public Information Officer Jodie Fawl about damages, relief efforts, and where the city will go from here.

Damage done

Authorities expect damages to run into the tens of millions. As officials continue to survey the area the damage amount continues to rise. The Wayne Airport suffered some of the heaviest damage. The airport was rededicated last month and its new aircraft hangars were torn to pieces by the tornado. One building remains in the center of the airport, but it will be torn down anyway due to safety concerns.

Fawl said the recovery process is going to be a long one. People have been working hard since the tornado struck. Volunteers responded immediately – 500 to 600 of them cleaning up debris. Volunteer firefighters traveled from 70 miles away to help. Thirty-seven agencies responded to the disaster on Friday night.

“I was very impressed with the people out there, they were very resilient,” Fawl said.

Fawl said Wayne is fortunate that the tornado hit after 5 p.m. when most were home from work and could receive warning. She also said the damage would have been a lot more extensive if the EF4 would have traveled ½ a mile further west and gone directly through the city where the majority of people reside.

“You can have millions of dollars worth of damages and still repair a city, but you can’t replace people,” Fawl said.

Courtesy of Wayne State Patrol.

Courtesy of the Nebraska State Patrol.

No new injuries reported

Fifteen people were injured in the storm, among them one critical injury. Authorities said Wayne State College Administrator John Dunning was hit by a garbage dumpster after he and a friend left their vehicle to seek shelter along Highway 35. Wayne State College Director of College Relations Jay Dollier said Dunning is now out of a medically induced coma and recovering from severe trauma.

Fawl said more than 100 Wayne residents have been given tetanus boosters to ensure their safety during storm clean up because of sharp metal debris that cut many of them.

Effects of the government shutdown?

            Fawl said since all the responses have mostly been on a local level relief from federal agencies was not needed. Therefore, the clean up effort hasn’t been impacted by the federal government shutdown. Eawl said one part of the disaster relief that could be held up because of the shutdown would be getting the federal government to declare federal disaster relief for the damage caused by the tornado.

The Nebraska Emergency Management Agency is asking for volunteers or people needing assistance to register at (402) 833-1800 or at the Community Activity Center, 901 W. Seventh St.


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