Strong thunderstorms spun off it least one tornado, perhaps several, in eastern Nebraska’s Douglas and Sarpy counties early Sunday morning, with some of the severe weather striking the state’s largest city. Dozens of homes and businesses in Omaha are damaged, a half-dozen homes were destroyed, but no injuries are reported.
Omaha resident Richard Holter was sound asleep when the storm struck around 2:30 A-M. "All the sudden, the house started shaking and the bed started moving and I woke up out of a dead sleep," Holter says. He and other storm survivors report the tornado hit first, before the sirens went off to alert them of danger. Holter says the winds were tremendous and his first concern was getting everyone to safety. He says the wind was "blowing like mad" and everyone managed to get downstairs. Holter says the neighborhood is a mess.
Omaha resident Kelly Homan was also asleep when the storm hit. He watched in amazement the fury of the twister. He says, "It looked like a hurricane. It was so bad. The wind and the rain was going sideways and we looked at it and we seen things flying past our window and then we heard our roof shakin’." Homan says he’s still assessing the damage to his home. He says: "All of our shingles are on the ground. Half the roof looked like it’s ripped up on the side. Our air conditioning box is hanging off to the side." Homan says he never thought he would be a tornado victim.
At the height of the storm, some 14-thousand Omaha Public Power customers were without service. Hundreds of trees were damaged and falling branches downed power lines. Dozens of homes were damaged as well as a number of businesses including a Wal-Mart, Don and Millie’s restaurant and an auto parts store. The tornado touched down in the area of 156th and Chandler and lifted off the ground near 120th and Pacific in the Millard area. While Millard took the brunt of the storm, there is damage throughout Omaha.
The American Red Cross set up an emergency shelter at Central Middle School in Millard, just west of Omaha. That shelter served the overnight needs of those with no place to stay or with no power. Red Cross spokesperson Deborah Neary says they are monitoring the situation. Neary says, "We will continue as long as we’re needed and we have people out assessing that."
She says mobile units are making the rounds in the Omaha area providing food and drinks to victims and clean-up crews. A temporary shelter was established at Millard Bible Church. Neary says they are also monitoring the situation in case flooding becomes a problem. She says they’re looking ahead and wondering if flooding might mean the shelter will need to remain open even longer. She says clean-up will continue for quite some time.