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Continuing Coverage of the Northeast Nebraska Tornadoes

Stanton Co. Sheriff Mike Unger updates the media following Monday's devastating tornadoes.

Looking to help fellow northeast Nebraskans Affected by the storms? Click here for a full list of agencies and contact information. http://us92.com/news/?more=be4855y9

Click here for a full list of agencies and contact information.


PILGER - Nebraska's Republican Gubernatorial candidate had a chance to see some of the tornado damage during a recent trip to northeast Nebraska.

After celebrating Nucor Vulcrafts 50th anniversary in Norfolk, Pete Ricketts made a stop in Pilger to see the damage twin twisters did to the village on Monday afternoon.

Ricketts says one of the most important things you can do as Governor is making sure you take care of the residents in the state.

Ricketts: "When we have a natural disaster like these tornadoes, its important for the Governor to be on site. To make sure we got the assistance of the National Guard called out. Working with the Federal Government with regard to disaster relief. Those are all things where the Governor needs to take a leadership position."

Ricketts says a positive to take out of the tragedy is the number of Nebraskan's helping Pilger with the clean up efforts. As many as 1800 people have already helped with clean up efforts in the town of 350.

The Nebraska Broadcasters Association has joined the tornado relief effort.

NBA officials announced that they've donated $5000 to the Red Cross for the northeast Nebraska relief efforts. The check was presented to the Red Cross Thursday.

NBA President Jim Timm said in a news release that the amount of response to the storms in the area has been heartwarming.

The Wisner Auditorium will become a drop-off point for material donations for tornado relief starting Sunday. NEMA officials say the site will be open until July 2nd, and will be used by people directly affected by the storm. Anyone can drop off items at the auditorium, however clothes and shoes will not be accepted there.

The community of Coleridge is also looking for volunteers to help clean up. Volunteers can check in at the Coleridge Community Building after 9 a.m. Transportation will be provided to the areas to clean up. Food and water donations are also being accepted at the Coleridge Community Building.

A group of local youngsters are letting those affected by the Pilger Tornado know that their thoughts and prayers are with them. The students at the Northern Hills Preschool in Norfolk, Nebraska have put together a Prayers for Pilger banner. Page Schmidt, teacher at Northern Hills Preschool said that the idea of the banner came from the kids at Northern Hills, and features each of their handprints…

Schmidt: "Well the kids had a good idea, they wanted to do something to help out. They're too young to go and help clean up so they wanted to do something for them."

The only fatally from the Pilger tornado, five-year old Callista Dixon, was a former student at the preschool. The school staff plan to hang the banner in Pilger to show their support to the residents and volunteers as the clean up effort continues.

Nebraskans from all over the state have come to the communities affected by the tornado. The Salvation Army in Norfolk has received a semi truck load of supplies. Food, clothes, water and toys have been generously donated.

Despite the great response, Salvation Army Incident Commander Jamie Pennington says that the recovery effort will be a long process.

"It will be years before the community is entirely recovered. We will be sending supplies out as they need them for the next couple of weeks if not months into this process. We will be fixed based feeding for probably the next week," Pennington said.

There have been thousands of volunteers that come to help clean up the town of Pilger and about 40 people a day drop off supplies.


Volunteers and residents of the Village of Pilger are returned to town Wednesday to begin the long process of cleaning up the damage following Monday's EF4 tornado.

Jeremy Pochop of Battle Creek spent Wednesday volunteering to clear rubble from the streets of Pilger with roughly 25 co-workers from Nucor in Norfolk.

Pochop: This is the least we can do with the neighboring community

Pilger resident Sandy Foote said that she was lucky that her home didn't sustain nearly the extent of damage that other homes in Pilger did, but was still blown away by the out pouring of support.

Foote: I thank God they are here. I thank God they are hear. They are busting their butts doing everything and I am so thankful for it."

Barbera Wolverton worked as a paraprofessional at Wisner-Pilger Middle School for the past six years and spend Wednesday working to clean out the wreckage of the school

Wolverton: "It was very very hard to come in and know that this will be the last time we will be in this building. All the memories that are here. Because we walked out of here this spring knowing we would be coming back to work."

Wolverton said that it is heartbreaking to see the school in such conditions

Wolverton: "To walk up these stairs, my room is the room on the backside that is completely gone. There's stuff all over it, in it, but I can't see where my desk was or anything. To know that it's gone and I really, I really doubt that they'll do anything with the school here."

Don Biggerstaff Chief of the Wisner Volunteer Fire Department said that a number of donations have already come into the Wisner Fire Hall and those in need following the storm in northeast Nebraska can get what ever they need from the Wisner Fire Hall

Chief Biggerstaff: "We have everything, I mean toiletries, household goods, food, water, clothing. We have a lot of stuff coming in and it's piling up. We’d like to get it out to the communities."

Chief Biggerstaff said that those in need of anything need to just come to the Wisner Fire Hall.


Calling it "total devastation", emergency management and law enforcement officials, as well as residents of Pilger are taking stock of the damage after two tornadoes touched down, decimating the town of about 350. Stanton County Emergency Management Director Sandy Goshorn says the tornadoes came almost without warning.

Goshorn: "It came down so fast. It was two tornadoes that merged into one, then came into town."

Sheriff Mike Unger says the damage is widespread.

Unger: "Total devastation. Seventy-five percent of the town in my opinion is damaged beyond repair. City hall's gone. The fire department is destroyed. The public library is severely damaged. At Midwest Bank, we're trying to see if the building is structurally able to have us go in and secure the contents in there. Obviously we have monies that we need to account for. The Wisner-Pilger Middle School is in my opinion totally damaged beyond repair. St. John's church is gone, and numerous houses are just gone."

Unger says five-year old Callista Dixon of Pilger was killed in the storm. She was pronounced dead upon arrival at Faith Regional Health Services in Norfolk. Unger says a motorist also died Monday after a single-vehicle accident that occurred on a county road four to five miles east of Pilger. Unger says the accident is considered storm-related because it occurred about the same time the storm pounded Pilger. The driver was identified as 74-year old David Herout of Clarkson.

Unger: "We had 18 victims transported to Faith Regional Health Services. One of those was our fatality. A second one was taken by medical helicopter to Creighton University Medical Center. They're in critical condition. I believe five others were admitted to the hospital. I know one went through surgery due to injuries suffered here. We have three other area hospitals with 25 miles that received victims from Pilger."

Pilger Village Clerk Kim Neiman says the town's water service has been disrupted.

Neiman: "Last night we did lose water for a little while. We did have a generator. Rich Koenig with the State Department of Health and Human Services helped us get a generator so we could get our well pumping again. We have restored water, but just to the park and pool restroom areas, so there are restroom facilities in town. We can't do it to the rest of the town until we check water mains and things like that."

Residents in Pilger have been allowed to re-enter their town to survey damage and collect valuables. Trey Wisniewski says the tornado was scary to live through.

Wisniewski: "All of a sudden all you could see was that the sky was black. We gathered up what we could and ran into the basement. We huddled into a corner and within 60 seconds the whole house lifted completely up off of us."

Sheriff Unger says the village will be closed off to everyone once again at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

If anyone can sympathize with the plight of Pilger's residents, it's Wayne Mayor Ken Chamberlain, who says while it may be hard to do, finding positives in this tragedy is key.

Mayor Chamberlain: "I know it's not just houses, it's people's homes and they don't want to hear that it could have been worse, but rebuilding homes is a lot easier than having funerals."

Gov. Dave Heineman and U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry are among those that got a chance to tour the damage in Pilger Tuesday morning.

Looking to help throughout northeast Nebraska following storms?

There are also coordinated efforts involving volunteers, and donations of goods:

One of the best ways you can help is by giving to the American Red Cross. You can either simply text the word redcross to 90999 to donate $10 to Disaster Relief through your mobile carrier. Charges will apply to your mobile phone bill next month. For non-monetary donations, please contact Allie Carlson at 402-343-7771

Orphan Grain Train – Call 402-371-7393.

Our Savior Lutheran Church – Cash donations only, and money will be earmarked for Pilger relief. Donations can be made at 2500 W. Norfolk Avenue, Norfolk, NE. 68701. Questions? Call Pastor Lee at 402-371-9005.

The Salvation Army – Collecting bottled water, fruit, and non-perishable food items. For more information call 402-379-4663.

Stanton VFW – Accepting clean, gently used clothing. Call 402-429-2113.

Stanton County Emergency Management – For questions about volunteering, or donating to volunteering, call 402-439-2219, or 402-439-2631.

Stanton State Bank is accepting donations for the Pilger Relief Fund. They will also be distributing donation jars at various Stanton Businesses to aid the Stanton Tornado victims.

To help with the cleanup efforts in Pilger, volunteers can meet at Wisner-Pilger High School beginning a 7am. Volunteers will be bussed to Pilger, and must be 18 or older to volunteer. For more information, call 402-529-3249

Wayne/Dixon Counties are in need of Volunteers for the tornado recovery efforts. Volunteers should check in at the Wakefield Fire Hall at 405 Main Street between 9 am-3 pm daily for your assignment. Wear work clothes, long pants, and sturdy, closed-toed shoes. We are asking that you be at least 19 years old or bring parental consent. Volunteers who have equipment or can offer specialized skills, such as chainsaw and heavy equipment operation, or with trucks and trailers to haul debris, are asked to call the hotline for placement (402) 287-2574. Homeowners should also call the hotline with volunteer requests. Monetary donations may be taken to the United Way Fund through the Wayne and Wakefield area banks.

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