Photos: Tornado damage in Wayne
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman pledged Sunday to help Wayne residents recover from Friday's tornado, including by requesting federal aid.
“People in this community are resilient, and they are going to rebuild,” Heineman said during a visit to the Wayne Fire Hall. “We're just thankful there was no loss of life. At the end of the day, buildings can be replaced, people can't.”
Heineman was joined by Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac, the state adjutant general, and a six-member team from the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency when he met with Wayne Mayor Ken Chamberlin and Fire Chief Phil Monahan to talk about community aid and debris cleanup.
The request for a disaster area declaration will include areas affected by the tornado as well as a winter storm that hit the Panhandle, Heineman said.
“Our message to the affected businesses is, 'We want to help you get back up and running,' ” Heineman said. “I don't think there's any question that we sustained enough damage.”
Heineman noted that he had attended the dedication of a new airport terminal in Wayne just a few weeks ago. That building, not yet completed, was demolished by the tornado, now classified by the National Weather Service as an EF4, with wind speed reaching 170 mph.
Heineman also met with representatives of Pacific Coast Feather, whose building was destroyed, to offer assistance. Pacific Coast manufactures down and feather bedding and is a leading supplier of premium down pillows to U.S. hotels.
“This tornado affected a much larger area than just Wayne,” Chamberlin said. “Farmers from miles around have bean fields and cornfields littered with debris. They will all need help. We are urging people to call 211 to register to volunteer.”
Fifteen people were injured, none fatally, said Chamberlin, who has met with some of the residents who lost their homes.
One man, Wayne State College administrator John Dunning, was critically injured by flying debris while seeking shelter outside his vehicle during the storm. His wife said doctors expect him to recover.
On Sunday, volunteers and city and county officials were cleaning ditches and the city's sports field, scheduled to be the host site for a high school district softball tournament Thursday and Friday.
In its preliminary damage survey, the weather service said the tornado that hit Wayne on Friday night and another twister that touched down near Macy, Neb., came from the same low-pressure system. The path of destruction covers 19 miles, extending from eight miles southwest of Wayne to the northeast.
At times the path of destruction was more than a mile wide, the weather service said. Several farmsteads and outbuildings were damaged or destroyed.
The most significant damage occurred in the industrial park area on the east side of Wayne, where numerous metal buildings were damaged.
This report includes material from the Associated Press.