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Clean-up, damage assessment underway in Omaha after major tornado outbreak

By Ehren Wynder & Mike Heuer
On May 27, 1997, an F5 tornado half a mile wide ripped through the small Texas town of Jarrell, killing 27 people, including a family of five. File Photo courtesy of the National Weather Service
On May 27, 1997, an F5 tornado half a mile wide ripped through the small Texas town of Jarrell, killing 27 people, including a family of five. File Photo courtesy of the National Weather Service

April 26 (UPI) -- Clean-up efforts and assessments of the devastation wrought by an outbreak of more than two dozen tornadoes are underway Saturday in Omaha, Neb., as forecasters warned of more trouble ahead.

More than 100 homes were destroyed by the storms and some people were injured when the twisters struck late Friday afternoon, Omaha-area Congressman Don Bacon told reporters, but there were no reported fatalities as of early Saturday.

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Emergency teams conducted door-to-door checks for storm victims, Bacon said after touring the devastation caused by tornadoes ripping through eastern Nebraska and Texas.

A federal disaster declaration is likely from the White House in the coming days, he added.

A total of 70 tornadoes, including 28 in Nebraska, were recorded across the affected areas of the United States on Friday, according to the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center.

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Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen and his wife Suzanne on Saturday extended "our deepest prayers to all those impacted by today's storms.

"I have ordered that state resources be made available to assist with the emergency response and to support local first responders as they assess the damage," Pillen posted on X.

State authorities urged residents to avoid downed power lines and abide law enforcement directives in impacted areas throughout the state.

Additional severe weather is likely to hamper efforts to clean up after the tornadoes.

The National Weather Service in Omaha said large hail, damaging winds, tornadoes and flooding are possible as severe weather continues Saturday.

"Those cleaning up from storms on Friday will want to have a plan for sheltering before storms develop," the NWS posted on X. "Even if the storms are not severe, lightning would be a danger."

Several other cities, including, Dallas, Kansas City, Mo., and Des Moines, Iowa, can also expect multiple rounds of severe thunderstorms through Sunday. More than 55 million Americans from Texas to Michigan could feel the effects, including Austin, Oklahoma City, Chicago and Milwaukee.

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The first indication of trouble came early Friday afternoon when the NWS issued a tornado watch for all of central and eastern Nebraska including Omaha, Lincoln and Grand Island. Within a few hours, tornado warnings extended to nearly 50,000 people in the eastern half of the state.

One tornado churning through Lincoln flipped a semi-trailer onto Interstate 80 northeast of the city, slowing traffic to a crawl.

By around 4:30 p.m. on Friday, first responders reported major damage, with several houses destroyed and multiple people trapped in their basements outside of Omaha and in Washington County.

The first of several tornadoes hit the Omaha metro area at about 5:15 p.m.

Eppley Airfield shut down after a tornado damaged the east side of the airfield where the general aviation area is, according to Omaha Airport Authority Chief Information Officer Steve McCoy.

"We're still doing damage assessment," McCoy said. "The terminal is relatively unaffected. But the airport is closed while we do damage assessment. We hope to reopen soon."

At least two tornadoes touched down in Texas Friday afternoon after severe thunderstorms that morning.

Video of the cyclone posted to X showed it cutting through a large field east of Waco.

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Officials in Iowa's Pottawattamie County said four people were injured Friday, and about 120 structures were damaged by severe weather.

There have not been any confirmed deaths.

"A complex but potentially significant severe weather episode is expected on Saturday," the the Storm Prediction Center said Friday.

A Level 3 of 4 risk of excessive rainfall is in place for Oklahoma City and Tulsa, as well as parts of Texas and Kansas.

Heavy rainfall and flooding is possible Sunday, especially in the Lower Mississippi Valley.

Springtime often means tornado season for the Plains and parts of the Midwest, as moist air from the Gulf of Mexico flows into the central United States and heats up the region, priming the atmosphere for severe storms.

There is still a chance of tornadoes, large hail and damaging winds on Sunday from Austin to Davenport, Iowa. It is predicted to affect areas including Shreveport, La.; Little Rock, Ark.; Kansas City and St. Louis, Mo.

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