The summer storm that blew through the Omaha-metropolitan area Monday morning – downing trees and power lines – developed as several thunderstorms joined forces in eastern Nebraska.
Frank Strait, a meteorologist with AccuWeather, The World-Herald's private weather consultant, said forecasters had been predicting chances of thunderstorms, but they “were caught off-guard” by the strength of the severe weather.
“We knew there was a good chance of thunderstorms popping up, but what we got was a cluster of thunderstorms organizing into a squall line with high winds in the eastern part of the state,” Strait said. “That made everything more intense.”
More photos: Storm damages trees around Omaha
Evidence of the storm's force still was in evidence Tuesday morning. A number of traffic signals in major west and northwest Omaha intersections still were without power or operating only in flashing red mode. Some of the intersections in the area had only temporary four-way stop signs, while power had been restored to the neighborhoods surrounding the intersections. Among those intersections: 120th and Pacific Streets and 108th and Blondo Streets.
Omaha Public Power District reported that about 2,000 customers remained without power as of 9:15 p.m., down from Monday's peak of 52,000 outages.
According to the utility company's blog, restoration of power should be “substantially complete” by 11 p.m. Wednesday. Some of those customers need electricians to repair a damaged meter box before OPPD can energize their service. OPPD is trying to contact customers who need meter repairs.
“Crews are tackling the outages one by one,'' said OPPD's Jodi Baker. “It's a really tedious process.''
The utility reported that it 74 crews on the job Tuesday, or about 185 people, including five crews from the Nebraska Public Power District; two crews from Southern Power Co.; and four crews from the Lincoln Electric System.
MidAmerican Energy reported Tuesday that it had restored power to the approximately 7,000 customers in Council Bluffs who lost electricity in the wake of the storm.
Scott Dergan, of the National Weather Service in Valley, said the storm began with winds of 40 mph on the western edge of Douglas County about 10 a.m. By the time the storm reached Eppley Airfield on the eastern boundary of the county 45 minutes later, winds there were clocked at 69 mph.
The storm continued through Iowa, with Harlan reporting winds of 75 mph, Dergan said.
“A lot of times storms like this take time to brew before they get what we call water loaded, and then they accelerate,” Dergan said. “It was nothing specific about the metro area such as the urban heat island effect. It was just Mother Nature.”
Monday's storm ended up dumping .62 inches of rain in Gretna and just over 1 inch at Eppley Airfield, Dergan said.
The forecast for this afternoon and beyond is for Nebraska and western Iowa to dry out, according to an AccuWeather official. No rain is expected through the weekend with temperatures in the low to mid-90s.
Scott McIntyre of Omaha Public Works said city crews should have all of the streets cleared of debris by sometime Tuesday. The heaviest damage, he said, appeared to be on a line from 168th and West Center Road to 16th Street and Hartman Avenue.
“We've received a lot of calls along that line,” McIntyre said. “There was also a lot of damage from 42nd to 60th Street on Center, but the rest of the city has been very spotty with some areas having a lot of trees down and almost nothing in others.”
Carrie Murphy, spokeswoman for Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert, said the city will open two tree debris drop-off locations on today and Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Debris will be accepted in the north parking lot of Tranquility Park near 120th and Maple Streets as well as city property at 11th and Locust Streets.
Tree limbs can also be cut and placed on the curb for pickup with the weekly trash collection. Limbs must be no bigger than 4 feet long and 2 inches in diameter.
Murphy said the city could keep the debris sites open later this week if there is need for them. To report blocked streets or other storm-related problems, call the Mayor's Hotline at 402-444-5555.
The City of Papillion will accept tree limbs at its River City site, 96th Street and Portal Road, between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. today through Monday. Papillion residents who have questions, can call their Mayor's Hotline at 402-827-1111 during regular work hours.
In Iowa, high winds toppled a grain dryer at the West-Central Co-op in Audubon late Monday morning.
“It ruptured a gas line, so we had to evacuate an area on the west side of Audubon, and we also shut down U.S. Highway 71,” said Audubon County Sheriff Todd Johnson.
The evacuation and highway closure lasted about an hour. Johnson did not know the number of people evacuated. Audubon is located about 80 miles northeast of Omaha.
North of Atlantic, Iowa, the Troublesome Creek spilled over its banks Monday, threatening U.S. Highway 71 and causing minor flooding. It also inundated the Little League field and flooding two cars parked there. Atlantic itself sustained some tree damage and was without power for about an hour.
Marne, northwest of Atlantic, was out of power until about 5 p.m. Monday.
“There were a lot of trees down. Not a lot of property damage,” Mike Kennon, emergency management director for Cass County, said of the two communities.
The flood threat has since subsided, Kennon said.
World-Herald Staff Writer Andrew J. Nelson contributed to this report.
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Near 56th and Grover Streets. Photo by Garrett Ritonya.
Near 144th and Center. Photo by @dgmwrx