Severe Weather in the Plains: Tornadoes Leave Damage in Nebraska and Iowa

May 12, 2014

Tornadoes left a string of damage across communities in south-central Nebraska as well as central Iowa Sunday. Residents began cleaning up debris and assessing damage after severe weather swept through the Midwest, ripping roofs off homes and toppling buildings but causing no major injuries.

Sunday's hail, heavy rain and tornadoes caused damage across much of the region, roughly along a line from the Kansas border through Hastings and Omaha. The towns of Sutton, Cordova and Beaver Crossing were especially hard-hit, with streets scattered with tree limbs and building debris and a number of homes severely damaged.

"Thank God we didn't have anybody seriously hurt," Sutton Fire Chief Chris Moore said. "It was a heck of a mess."

Brett Wright, Brandon Sullivan/Twitter

Chasers Brandon Sullivan and Brett Wright with captured video and photos of a reported tornado in Exeter, Nebraska, Sunday evening.

Most of Sutton's downtown buildings, including the city hall, sustained damage, including several holes that debris punched in several, but they were all still standing. Moore said structural experts were evaluating the buildings Monday to make sure they were safe to enter.

At least three Sutton homes lost their roofs and several others were damaged. Outside of town, several grain bins, farm buildings and center-pivot irrigation systems were damaged by the strong winds.

Photos show damage to store fronts, and utility workers estimate Sutton will be without power for two days.

Gov. Dave Heineman visited Sutton and several other communities Monday to assess the storm damage. Heineman said he expected to issue a state disaster declaration for the damaged areas later in the day.

"Nebraska emergency management officials are actively coordinating needs assessments with local emergency workers," Heineman said. "Even when disaster strikes, I see friends and neighbors caring for and helping each other. This is Nebraska at its best."

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The extent of the damage across Nebraska should become clearer once officials are able to visit damaged areas, Nebraska Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Jodie Fawl said.

Heineman said the damage was extensive in Cordova and Beaver Crossing, where the storms ripped the roofs off a couple homes and tore a wall off of another.

The majority of homes in Beaver Crossing, a small town west of Lincoln, were damaged or destroyed, KLKNTV reports. The destruction ranged from minor roof and window damage to houses being "completely leveled," one resident told the station. There were no reports of injuries in the town.

"There was nothing there," resident Brianna Nisly said of her home.

Beaver Crossing resident Leta Keeney said she and her husband were amazed by the damage when they emerged from their basement shelter Sunday. Trees had been knocked over throughout the neighborhood, Vern Keeney's work truck was damaged and the couple's motor home in the backyard was totaled.

"I had no idea it would be like this because we didn't hear much noise," Leta Keeney said Monday.

Tree limbs and power lines were down throughout the town of about 400, and nearly every home sustained some damage.

Temporary shelters also have been set up in several hard-hit communities, and election officials moved two polling places out of Cordova and Beaver Crossing to nearby towns for Tuesday's primary election.

In central Iowa, a storm near Panora left several buildings damaged in the Lake Panorama area Sunday night.

Authorities told the Associated Press at least eight lakeside condominiums were damaged by the storm. No injuries were reported in the damage that occurred roughly 35 miles west of Des Moines.

Numerous tornadoes were reported across at least six counties. NEMA officials said trained spotters identified 12 to 15 likely tornadoes. The National Weather Service was following up on the reports, but their assessment work couldn't be completed Monday so crews will go back out on Tuesday.

Earlier Sunday, severe weather left minor damage in parts of southeastern Iowa. According to KCRG-TV, damage was reported in Fairfield after nickel- to quarter-sized hail fell for more than 20 minutes. Hail as big as baseballs was reported near the towns of Blakesburg and Thurman.

Hail and flash flooding occurred Sunday night in some northern, central and western Illinois towns – the latest round of severe weather for the state.

Baseball-sized hail fell in Towanda, Illinois, 125 miles southwest of Chicago, and the AP reported some roads in Woodford, Ford and Kankakee counties were covered by as much as a foot and a half of water as heavy rain created flash-flooding problems.

Strong winds also brought down some of the state's power lines, but no injuries were reported from this round of severe weather.

Tornado watches are posted into early Monday morning. Get the very latest on the storm threat on's Severe Tracker.

The damage comes on the tail of severe weather that produced several tornadoes Saturday, including an EF2 in Orrick, Missouri.

Damage in Sutton, Neb. after several tornadoes moved across Nebraska on Sunday, May 11, 2104. (Jim Grace)

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