Photo Slideshow: Thursday Storm Damage
* * * * * * * * * *
Residents and businesses in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa spent Friday cleaning up after powerful winds, rain and hail swept southeastward from South Dakota into Missouri, punching holes in homes and windshields and littering yards with limbs and downed trees.
At the height of the storm, at least 62,000 homes and businesses lost electrical service. As of midmorning Friday, more than 13,000 electricity customers in both states still were without power.
The storm pounded the eastern edge of the metropolitan area, with Omaha's Eppley Airfield, Carter Lake, Iowa and parts of Council Bluffs seeing the worst damage in the metro.
Large hail damaged seven aircraft, countless windshields on cars parked at and around Eppley and the transparent overhangs along the front of the airport terminal. Winds measured at near 100 mph ripped open the roof in the South Concourse, letting rain pour in and causing water damage at four gates.
One Southwest Airlines pilot was struck by hail as he walked off a plane and onto the jet bridge. He was taken in serious condition to a local hospital.
Three jet bridges were damaged by the high winds, twisting the portable walkways and tearing sheet metal on the structures' sides.
Eppley was closed twice during the storm.
“There was zero visibility,'' said Steve Coufal, executive director of the Omaha Airport Authority. “You couldn't see five to 10 feet in front of you.''
Fifteen outbound flights were canceled Friday morning because many planes couldn't get in to Eppley on Thursday night, Coufal said. Thirty-five inbound and outbound flights were delayed or canceled Thursday night.
Rainfall amounts varied widely, from .22 in the Millard area to 1.96 at Eppley to 2.63 in Council Bluffs, the National Weather Service said.
Local auto repair shops were swamped Friday with customers whose windshields and back glass were shattered by the hail.
Crews at Kryger Glass in Omaha worked until about 2 a.m. Friday repairing broken windows at MidAmerican Energy in Council Bluffs and already had repaired about 10 windshields Friday morning, said manager Todd Twiss.
“I'm looking at a Honda Odyssey, and it looks like someone took a hammer to it,” he said. “I expect more and more like that to come.”
In Council Bluffs, baseball- and softball-size hail knocked out 19 skylights and three classroom windows on the St. Albert Schools campus. Several cars in the parking lot were hit.
About 25 volunteers cleaned up debris and covered the broken windows and skylights, Joseph Connolly, St. Albert president, said in an email to staff.
Connolly said there would be school on Friday, although it will take days to completely repair the damage.
Friday morning, Kelli Brock was among a number of Carter Lake residents who were out cleaning up the damage.
“It was like someone set up a pitching machine and aimed it at the house, fast,” said Brock of the baseball-sized hail that blew horizontally into the family's home, crashing through windows and roof vents and punching holes in the siding.
The hail rode in on a rush-hour storm and was followed later in the evening by a powerful wind and rainstorm, which sent water into Brock's home through the now-open vents.
Brock said she was “scared to death” as she watched her husband and son head outside to board up windows so that family possessions wouldn't be damaged during the second storm.
All escaped unhurt, and all three were cleaning up damage Friday. Plastic stretched across the roof; insulation board covered windows.
Insurance agents got their first calls Thursday night after the storms hit. The phones kept ringing Friday.
“I'll spend today and tomorrow driving around and helping my clients,” said Matt Dougherty, a State Farm agent from central Omaha. “I've got a chain saw in my car if I need it.”
Dougherty said claims seemed to extend from the Dundee area of Omaha toward the northeast, with some hail and wind damage in northwest Omaha and a lot in western Iowa. In Iowa, wind damage seems more prevalent from Treynor to the south, with hail damage mostly north of Treynor.
“Hail goes in pockets, hit and miss,” he said.
In the Ponca Hills north of Omaha, golf- and tennis-ball-sized hail blew through, said Bev Caster, secretary of the Ponca Hills Preservation Association.
“It's the worst one that I've seen in years,” she said. “I don't know if there's any basements that are flooded, but I've seen a lot of driveways where the gravel's washed away.”
Council Bluffs public information officer Don Gross said seven homes were evacuated near the Dodge Park Apartments after two pumping stations lost electricity.
The fire department had to evacuate the homes by boat.
“When the pumps stopped, the water stayed,” Gross said. The people were able to re-enter their homes Thursday night.
The thunderstorm developed in northeast Nebraska and moved southeast toward Omaha at about 25 mph.
Eppley Airfield, where crews have spent much of the last few months keeping the Missouri River at bay, first closed at 5:30 p.m., after severe winds and golfball- to baseball-size hail hit, covering the runway with debris.
Crews had to use snow brooms to clear runways of debris after the hail blew through, Eppley's Coufal said.
After inspecting the runway, officials reopened the airport just before 7 p.m.
About 7:20 p.m., as a second storm moved through and crews continued to remove debris, officials again closed the airport. It reopened about 9:30 p.m.
Water pumps pumping high groundwater into the airport's storm drainage system were shut down for a time during the storm so the pumped water wouldn't compete with the heavy rain, Coufal said. The heavy rain also pushed up manhole covers and left standing water in the parking garage, he said.
Brothers Logan and Zach Volz of Des Moines said they were riding an airport shuttle bus from a surface parking lot about 5:30 p.m. The vehicle's windshield and several side windows were shattered when they were struck by softball-size hail, Logan Volz said.
No one inside was hurt.
Jan Durlin was a passenger on a plane that was on the runway at 5 p.m., when heavy rain and hail began pelting the aircraft. Passengers were taken back to the terminal. Durlin's flight to Orlando was first delayed, then canceled.
“We could feel the plane shaking,” said Durlin, a Council Bluffs resident. “It made me a bit nervous.”
Coufal said the problems at Eppley affected more than 2,700 travelers in Omaha and elsewhere in the country.
World-Herald staff writers Emerson Clarridge, Steve Jordon, Bob Glissmann, Aaron Sanderford, Sara Connolly, Mark Davis, Kirby Kaufman and Andrew J. Nelson contributed to this report, which includes material from the World-Herald News Service.
Contact the writer:
VIDEO: Residents of Sidney and Tabor, Iowa assess damage caused by Thursday's storm.
VIDEO: W-H photographer Mark Davis was inside his car when the storm hit. Below is the raw video.