PILGER- One month after two tornadoes brought widespread devastation to the village of Pilger, the town too tough to die is closing in on its resurgence.
At Tuesday's Planning Commission meeting, the group approved five residential and 2 commercial zoning permit applications to rebuild structures destroyed by June 16th severe storms.
Along with passing permits the Commission, along with members of the Federal and State Emergency Management Agency, fielded questions regarding rebuilding in the town's current flood plain.
Village Clerk Kim Neiman sees all of this as progress, and says a big moral boost would be seeing new houses up around the village.
Neiman: "Especially houses where there are no houses around right now. There would be a house there now. Its like planting a seed. One seed comes up and maybe the rest of them will pop up."
Neiman adds she has four other zoning permits to approved at the Planning Commission's next meeting on July 22nd.
The permits recommended last night will now move to the Village Board for final approval. The first set of building endorsements are expected to come Thursday morning during a special meeting of the Pilger Village Board.
PILGER (KTIV) - Just four months since Cody Murphree, his two younger sisters Robin and Cali and his mother Kandi moved to Pilger, they encountered the storm that couldn't be stopped. The storm claimed the life of Murphree's sister, five-year old Calista Dixon. Murphree says he was working in Wayne when his supervisor informed him that a tornado was heading straight for Pilger. He immediately called his mom to warn her. Minutes later, a second tornado touched down.
Murphree: "I called my mom again and told her you need to get to grandma's house so that ya'll will be safe."
But Murphree says it was too late.
Murphree: "I couldn't get into Pilger. I was out on the dirt road. I just got the call that they've been transferred to the hospital, so I turned around and went."
Four hours after Murphree arrived at a Norfolk hospital, he was finally able to locate his family. His sister, Robin suffered minor injuries and his mother was in a coma. In shock, Murphree took to the grim task of identifying his little sister, Cali.
Murphree: "It was just devastating. She was sweet and loving. She was the one who just brightened up everyone's day. There was this one time I can't remember what I was upset about, but she walked up to me and said 'Bubba why are you sad? You got me.'"
Murphree now lives in Wayne and says he occasionally heads back to Pilger. He says sometimes it's out of habit and other times he wants to remember what he used to have. Murphree says he has no plans to return to Pilger to live, though.
WASHINGTON D.C. - Following a devastating June for a large portion of Nebraska, the state's federal lawmakers are making concerted effort to gain larger federal disaster assistance.
Nebraska's five-member Congressional delegation wrote a letter to President Obama Tuesday urging him to take swift action to approve Governor Heineman's request for a major disaster declaration following significant tornado, wind, hail, and flood damage.
Heineman had requested individual assistance for Cedar, Cuming, Dixon, Stanton and Wayne counties and public assistance for those counties along with Dakota and Thurston counties in northeast Nebraska.
The major disaster declaration would allow those affected to be eligible for federal assistance. In addition, the Governor requested hazard mitigation for the entire state which would provide funding to protect life and property from future natural disasters.
PILGER - The annual Pilger Days will be held this weekend and a unique fundraiser will be held to help the town of 300 that was devastated by a tornado. Stanton County Mike Unger said that a Taser demonstration will used to raise money for the Pilger Fire and Rescue Department
Sheriff Unger: " and when we do that we need to have somebody who's willing to be tased to really show the effects and I have volunteered to be publicly tased if they can raise a set amount of money."
Unger said that the goal is to raise at least $1000, and the individual who donates the most cumulative money will be allowed to shoot the Taser with the assistance of a sworn officer.
PILGER. - Dozens of residents lined the streets to watch one northeast Nebraska landmark be torn down.
Friday morning construction crews began the long process of demolishing the tornado ravaged Wisner-Pilger Middle School. Dozens of residents lined the streets to watch the century old building be leveled. Chad Boyer, Superintendent of the Wisner-Pilger School District said that the brick building sustained major damage from the June 16th EF-4 tornadoes.
Boyer: "We had two independent structural engineers come in and do an assessment on the building immediately after the storm. Both of their reports concurred that the building did need to come down. It wasn't safe, it just couldn't be rebuilt in it's current state."
District officials are also making bricks from the building available to Pilger residents and alumni of the school first, then to the general public. The bricks will be piled on the northwest corner of the school lot in Pilger. Many alumni from the early days of the school were on hand Friday morning, reminiscing of their time attending kindergarten through 12th grade, at the Pilger school. Including Jim Duncan, Chairman of the Village Board and 1954 Graduate of the Pilger School
Duncan: "It's just plain sad, but you have to move on. You have to do what ever you have to."
Duncan said that he plans to donate a brick from the school to the local historical society to ensure the legacy of the building lives on. Duncan, and other members of the Village Board also say that while it's tough to see so many landmarks be removed, they're excited for the next chapter in Pilger's story.
Construction crews expect the process of demolishing the school to take roughly two weeks.
PILGER - Midwest Bank have announced their plans to rebuild in Pilger after their location was leveled by the June 16th tornado. Doug Johnson, CEO of Midwest Bank said that the bank will operate a full service location in Wisner while the Pilger location is being built. Johnson, a native of Pilger, said that when it came to rebuilding, it was an easy decision
Johnson: "Midwest Bank got their roots there with Farmers National Bank in 1952. We didn't consider leaving Pilger for one second. From the time we knew that our building was totaled we were committed to rebuilding, not only our building, but playing a leadership role in helping rebuild the town of Pilger.
Johnson said that he didn't have a solid time frame for when the new building in Pilger will be finished.
During the transition, Midwest Bank will have an employee available from 9:00am to 10:00am in northwest Pilger to assist with limited banking needs. No cash will be available.
PILGER - After sustaining significant damage in the June 16th tornadoes, one Pilger landmark will be removed this week. Officials with the Wisner-Pilger School District have announced that the Wisner-Pilger Middle School Building in Pilger will be demolished Friday morning. Wisner-Pilger School District Superintendent Chad Boyer said that the as demolition begins, Pilger residents and alumni of the century old building will be allowed to keep a brick from the building as a keepsake..
Boyer: "Well that building was centrally very meaningful to the residents of Pilger, as well as, the Pilger alumni. Those that graduated from the K-12 school there, those that went through the elementary, and even the students up to recently who had attended as middle school students.
The bricks will be available at no cost, and will be given to Pilger residents and Pilger alumni first. Boyer said that the bricks will be piled up on the northwest corner of the lot, but asks that members of the public keep a safe distance during the demolition work. The demolition of the school building is scheduled to be at 8:00am Friday.
STANTON - The guardianship of a 4-year-old Pilger girl whose mother is still in the hospital recovering from injuries sustained in the June 16th tornadoes is now being discussed in Stanton County Court.
4-year-old Robin Dixon has been in her grandmother's care while her mother Kandi Murphree is being treated for injuries sustained in the storms at the Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha.
Judge Michael Long heard the case Tuesday as Dixon's father, Elijah who lives in Madison, Alabama, is seeking custody of the child. Dixon is also the father of 6-year-old Calista Dixon who died from injures sustained in the storm.
Court documents also show that Dixon has filed for custody of Robin in Alabama.
Judge Long continued the hearing on Tuesday. The case will resume Friday at 1:30pm in Stanton County Courts.
WAYNE- Nebraska's agriculture leader is optimistic about northeast Nebraska's livestock numbers despite massive casualties from last month's tornadoes.
Agriculture Director Greg Ibach is projecting nearly 1000 head of cattle were lost from tornadoes that swept through the counties of Stanton, Wayne, Dixon, Thurston, Cuming, and Cedar on June 16th and 17th.
Ibach says while there were a few farmsteads reporting significant to devastating losses, overall livestock production for the northeast Nebraska region is favorable.
Ibach: "There's still a lot of livestock that weathered the storm or weren't affected by the storm. Overall the numbers and the production is still going to be strong there."
Ibach says the USDA has several assistance programs for producers who lost livestock in the recent tornadoes, including the new Livestock Indemnity Program.
Ibach: "Each qualified producer can receive up to 125 thousand dollars in assistance. That's up to 75% of the value of those animals lost in the storm."
To be eligible for the LIP program, a livestock producer must have legally owned the eligible livestock on the day the livestock died.
PILGER(KTIV) - One of the people hurt when an EF-4 tornado slammed into Pilger, Nebraska, is recovering from her injuries.
Family members say Kandi Murphree is in fair condition at an Omaha-area hospital.
Murphree's son told an Omaha television station that his mother is now out of intensive care, and is talking again.
Her five-year-old daughter, Calista Dixon, died when the tornado tore through their home back on June 16.
PILGER- For the first time in nearly three weeks, rebuilding won't be the focus in Pilger.
Village officials have suspended volunteer efforts Friday, so residents can celebrate America's 238th birthday.
Pilger Village Clerk Kim Neiman says they wanted all residents to be able to celebrate Independence Day, and feels it's a major holiday for the village.
Nieman: "Even though we don't have a July 4th celebration, they have one over in the city of Stanton. They have one here in Stanton County that we can all go over and watch a parade, go on a picnic, or spend time with family. A lot of us haven't had time to do cause we have been here all day."
Neiman adds it will give her and others a chance to reflect on what has happened in the days since the June 16th tornado and how to move forward with cleanup efforts.
Neiman is still in need of walking volunteers, excavators, dump trucks, and Bobcats when cleanup efforts resume on Saturday.
PILGER- A decade long flood regulation is making Pilger's rebuilding effort an even bigger challenge.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agencies flood map published in 2004, 75% of the village fell within the flood plain. Pilger had passed ordinances since the map was published, saying that if a building is damaged at least 50% of it's value, new buildings must comply to the flood plain standards, and be built at least one foot above the base flood elevation.
Michael Cappannari with the FEMA Region 7 office in Kansas City said that if village residents choose to not comply with the flood plain standards, the Village of Pilger could lose their status in the National Flood Plain Insurance program..
Cappannari: "For those residences that were building below the base flood elevation, the flood insurance policies would be drastically higher since they will be in violation of that ordinance.
FEMA did say that residents in Pilger do have alternatives to basements when rebuilding such as a safe room. Pilger Village Clerk Kim Neiman says that the existing requirements that are now being enforced aren't coming as welcome news to some residents.
Neiman: "We have heard of a few (people) that have already purchased homes in Stanton or Wisner. That's great for Stanton and Wisner, and if that what they need to do, then that's what they need to do. We are not thinking badly of people because of what they need to do for their situation."
Neiman also said that some residents are expressing concern that insurance pay outs aren't paying for the additional needs to bring in additional resources to build to the new height. She is hoping the Pilger Community Foundation will use part of the disaster relief to help bring in dirt for those residents wanting to rebuild in the village.
PILGER - Progress is continuing as one northeast Nebraska community is continuing to pick up the pieces following an EF4 tornado strike nearly two weeks ago. Saturday Pilger residents were updated on the ongoing rebuilding and recovery process following the June 16th EF4 tornado strike. Stanton County Sheriff Mike Unger said that many essential services have been restored
Sheriff Unger: "The boil alert has been lifted. You can drink the Pilger water, we do ask that you run water from each tap for three to five minutes to flush out the line as a precautionary measure."
Unger also said that despite the tornado strike, one Pilger tradition will continue this summer..
Sheriff Unger: "Pilger Fire and Rescue met this morning and have voted to hold their annual Pilger Day's BBQ and Street dance. It will just be relocated to the ball park area."
Pilger Days will take place July 18th through the 20th.
Members of the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources were also on hand to answer any questions residents had when it came to the ongoing rebuilding process.
The Wisner-Pilger Schools District Board of Education is holding a special meeting Monday night to discuss school demolition and construction projects in preparation for the 2014-15 school year.
PILGER- Months after a tornado devastated his community, one Nebraska City Clerk is lending a helping hand to those affect by the June 16th tornado in Pilger.A mothers day tornado destroyed 16 homes in the Village of Beaver Crossing, and caused significant damage to 22 other homes.
City Clerk Shannon Chesnut says after hearing about the devastation in Pilger he couldn't sleep and immediately thought of ways to help the community.
Chesnut: “Then on that Tuesday morning, I got a call from the attorney for Pilger just asking me some heads up things and what I could offer. I started rattling them off and thought you know what, when we got up to item 10, why don't I ask my board and see if I can just come up there.”
Chesnut got unanimous approval from his board, and came to Pilger to help village officials get in contact the League Association of Risk Management to get insurance money coming to town as quickly as possible.
As far as his own community, Chesnut says most of the debris is now gone from Beaver Crossing, and the village has moved into the rebuild stage of the recovery efforts.
STANTON - The Stanton County Emergency Management office said that due to the forecasted inclement weather for this weekend, volunteer efforts for tornado recovery in the Stanton County area is being canceled. Stanton County Emergency Manager Stanford Goshorn said that this is for organized clean up volunteers meeting at the Stanton County courthouse.
Goshorn: "Volunteers will be needed come Monday and during the week, but the weekend just doesn't look good for volunteers. We just can endanger anybody out there."
Again, Goshorn said that this does not affect the scheduled activates for this weekend in the Village of Pilger.
NORFOLK - In the wake of the June 16th Tornadoes that hit Pilger and other areas in northeast Nebraska, many local residents and businesses have come forward and held fundraisers for the ongoing recovery effort. This week, the staff and residents of the Heritage of Bel-Air nursing home in Norfolk held a silent auction, bake sale, and spaghetti feed to raise money for the neighboring community. Heritage of Bel-Air Administrator Katie Frederick said that the spaghetti feed served over 400 people in the span of just two hours.
Frederick: "We raised over $7,000 dollars. We are having a partial match from Thrivent and then also from Vetter Health Services, our owners, based out of Elkhorn."
The exact amount of the match has yet to be calculated. Frederick said that the devastation hit close to home with a member of the Heritage of Bel-Air staff lost everything in the tornado. All the funds are set to go directly to those in Pilger affected by the storm.
STANTON - Due to weather, Stanton County officials are suspending volunteer efforts in Pilger and rural Stanton County today.
STANTON - Officials with the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District say Maskenthine Lake near Stanton is still closed. The lake south of Stanton was among the areas hit hard by the tornadoes on June 16th. Powerful winds completely destroyed the main headquarters, tree distribution center and lake superintendent's home. LENRD officials say they hope to at least have power restored to the lake by next week.
JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) - Residents of a southwest Missouri city devastated by a 2011 tornado are reaching out to Pilger. Joplin residents on Thursday announced a "Joplin Loves Pilger" campaign to help victims of the June 16 tornado in Pilger. The campaign includes a Facebook page to offer encouragement and an account at Pinnacle Bank in Joplin, with all proceeds to go to the Pilger Community Development Fund. The May 2011 tornado damaged hundreds of homes and businesses and killed 161 people in Joplin. Joplin resident Doug Hunt worked Saturday in Pilger and says the campaign is part of his efforts to thank you to people who helped him and his city.
PILGER - The boil order for the Village of Pilger has been lifted. Officials with NEMA say test results for water samples in the tornado-ravaged community tested negative for coliform. NEMA says residents should still run water from the tap to flush the line as a precautionary measure.
Volunteers and citizens of Pilger and rural Stanton County are invited to a lunch in Pilger on Saturday. The lunch will be hosted by the Knights of Columbus Council 938 and held at the village park at noon on Saturday.
WISNER - The Board of Education for the Wisner-Pilger school district will be holding a special meeting next week. An agenda for Monday's meeting shows the Board will discuss demolition and construction projects that will be necessary to get students and teachers ready for the upcoming school year. The 2014-15 school year starts for Wisner-Pilger on August 14th. Monday's meeting will be held at the Wisner-Pilger Junior-Senior High School at 6 p.m. on Monday.
PILGER - Pilger residents will be updated on the ongoing recovery and rebuilding process this weekend. The Village of Pilger has scheduled a community meeting for Saturday, June 28th at 1:30p.m. in the city park.
Representatives of the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources will also be on hand and are planning to present information on flood plain rebuilding and answer questions. Village Clerk Kim Neiman said that as village residents continue to recover from the June 16th tornado, it's understandable that residents will have questions about the rebuilding process. Neiman also said that village officials would like as many Pilger residents to attend as possible to receive the information.
WISNER- Those affected by last weeks tornadoes now have a one stop shop for assistance services for a limited time. State Senator Lydia Brasch of Bancroft has assisted in putting together a special Multi Agency Resource Center inside the Wisner Fire Hall.
Services provided by the center include: All Hands Volunteers, The American Red Cross, Notheast Nebraska Economic Development District, the USDA Office of Rural Development and more.
Red Cross's Disaster Preparedness Specialist Cindy Pfennig says the Multi Agency Resource Center will be open through Saturday evening, and urges residents not to worry if they can't make it during the allotted time.
Pfennig: "The Multi Agency Resource Center makes it more convenient for people to come and see a variety of agencies at one time. It doesn't mean that they won't be available later on, it just makes it more convenient right now."
Pfennig says many of the services, including the Red Cross, will be working with the affected residents for the next several months. The Multi Agency Resource Center at Wisner's Fire Hall is open now through 8 o clock this evening. The center will also be open Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
PILGER - Black Hills Energy is working to restore natural gas service to Pilger and Wakefield. Black Hills officials say they were forced to shut off the gas service to those towns for safety reasons the night of the storm. Black Hills says once they've restored service, they'll check the system for leaks and go door-to-door to re-light pilot lights.
WAKEFIELD (KTIV) - A group of former military members and emergency responders are helping with the clean-up in Wakefield. The group known as Team Rubicon has set up a station in Wakefield to provide a number of services - from volunteer management to damage assessment and removal. With all the debris left by the storms, farmers in Wakefield will have a hard time harvesting their crops if these fields don't get cleared. Strike team leader Nate Reeves says cleaning up these fields is one of Team Rubicon's first priorities.
Reeves: "That's how they make their living. So we've been doing a lot. A lot of volunteers have been coming in, helping with clearing fields, getting debris out of the fields so that come time to harvest, they can get in there and not mess up their equipment."
Team Rubicon has more than 15,000 members spanning every state. It provides disaster relief across the country and world. The team members in Wakefield will help with clean-up through the end of the month.
LONG ISLAND, NY- The impact of last week's tornadoes in Pilger has been felt all the way to the East Coast, where one elementary student is doing her part to help those affected. Long Island, New York 4th grader Katie Ditrano was inspired to learn more about natural disasters after befriending a Japanese girl, who survived the tsunami strike back in 2011.
For a class project, Ditrano put together a presentation educating students on how to survive different types of natural disasters. She also asked her fellow classmates to help her collect items and write inspiration cards for victims of recent natural disasters. Ditrano says she decided to send the supplies to Pilger after learning about the town's twin tornado strike.
Ditrano: "I have seen regular tornados, just one tornado, but to see two tornados, it was really scary. I couldn't imagine what it must be like, for it to be scary to me seeing it on TV, what it would be like to actually see it there live in person."
Ditrano and her classmates were able to collect things such as personal care items, cleanings supplies, and new books for those in Pilger. The supplies will be on there way to northeast Nebraska later this week.
PILGER - As clean-up continues in the community of Pilger, Stanton County officials are starting to look at the long-term needs of the recovery effort. Stanton County Sheriff Mike Unger says he's expecting a lull in volunteers in the coming weeks. Unger says that can actually work as a positive, as it should give the heavy machinery space to clear out the larger debris. Unger says long-term, there will need to be a large volunteer effort to clean up the fields of northeast Nebraska.
Unger: "We're going to have a real need especially for walkers in the fields around Pilger and other areas. I want to remember that Wakefield is in this and other areas like Stanton. We're going to really have a need, kind of like detasslers, to walk the fields and pick up small pieces when they can."
Volunteers are still needed in the towns of Pilger, Wakefield and Stanton. Volunteers can check in at the Pilger Swimming Pool from 8 to 3, the Stanton County Courthouse from 8 to 5 and the Wakefield Fire Hall from 8 to 5.
PILGER (KTIV) - Pilger is officially open to the public.
The closure of the tornado-ravaged town was officially lifted at 8 p.m. Monday. That means residents, who's homes are still liveable, are allowed to sleep in their own beds once again. Many of the homes have electricity and running water, but city officials want to remind residents there is still a boiling alert in place until later this week. Stanton County Sheriff Mike Unger says he knows opening the city will likely bring gawkers, and that his staff will be ready.
Unger: "There will be active law enforcement down here, and if anyone decides to cross that line, they may find themselves in a situation they'd prefer not to be."
Starting Tuesday, trash services will resume as normal. There is still a need for extra helping hands, city officials say volunteers can report directly to Pilger starting at seven Tuesday morning.
The community was buzzing when super star Bret Michaels stopped by Pilger to show his support. He used his day off to help clean up Pilger.
His visit began with a tour of the town and a meet and greet with community members. Michaels told Pilger residents that he's going to do all that he can to help rebuild the town. He even mentioned possibly organizing a benefit concert near Pilger to help raise money.
Michaels "When you see something on TV it's devastating. But when you actually get to see it and feel it and talk to the human lives that were affected, it is really emotional. I got very emotional."
Both Michaels' sisters live in Omaha, which makes him feel like he has close ties to the state.
NORFOLK - Following last week's tornado disaster in northeast Nebraska, the Applebee's location in Norfolk will be donating a portion of the restaurant's daily sales to the ongoing relief efforts.
Each Monday and Tuesday for the reminder of June and all of July, the local Applebee's in Norfolk will donate 20% of all sales to the American Red Cross to help victims of the storms throughout northeast Nebraska.
PILGER - Residents in Pilger are getting an update on the progress of their tornado recovery.
Village Clerk Kim Neiman: "From the bottom of my heart, thank you for all your donations, for all your time coming here and for all your support. I just hope that everyone understands how appreciative we all are."
Neiman says while there is still a long ways to go, she's been taken aback by how much work has been accomplished in the past week.
Neiman: "It's been very humbling to see how many volunteers will come out to help little Pilger."
Monday is the last day that volunteers will have to check in at Wisner-Pilger High School. Stanton County Sheriff Mike Unger says starting tomorrow, volunteers can go directly to Pilger to check in starting at 7 a.m. Unger says the Village is also preparing for a high-profile volunteer on Monday…rocker Bret Michaels.
Unger: "We expect him to work. We're going to put him to work. We're concerned about a little bit of a following - the old adage from my time was "groupies" - coming in. We don't need that. Mr. Michaels is generous enough and give us time, we want to take advantage of that, but we don't need an onslaught of people just coming down here to see him and take up his time."
Sheriff Unger says his office is investigating a copper theft related to storm clean-up, but that otherwise there has been little to no criminal activity in Pilger this past week.
Stanton County officials say they are in great need of dump and side-dumper trucks to assist with removing debris. Sheriff Unger says there are plenty of vehicles to demolish buildings, but not enough to haul the debris away.
PILGER - Residents of Pilger will get an update on tornado recovery Monday morning. A community meeting will be held Monday at 8 a.m. in the village park. City officials say they hope to have as many residents as possible show up show officials can update residents on where the recovery efforts stand.
Meanwhile, Stanton County officials will be keeping the community of Pilger closed until 8 p.m. Monday to allow for one more day of intense clean-up. Anyone who has questions about volunteering or donating is asked to call a hotline that has been set-up. That number is (402) 833-1516.
In terms of donations, a needs assessment shows that residents and volunteers need the following items: sunscreen, bug spray, anti-itch creams for bug bites, tissues, paper towels, disposable razors, packing tape, sports drinks and telescopic magnet tools. They DO NOT need any more water or clothing donations.
NEMA officials say that as of Saturday, there were still seven people from Pilger staying at a shelter set-up at Northeast Community College. A similar shelter set-up at Wakefield Community Schools has 25 people staying there.
PILGER - Officials say damaged vehicles are hindering tornado cleanup efforts in Pilger, so the town is offering to remove them at no cost to owners.
Officials say the village clerk has a "consent, release and waiver" form that vehicle owners must complete before their vehicle can be removed. Forms are available at the town's check-in location and food pavilion.
The form will allow owners to transfer ownership of their vehicle to the village so it can be removed for free. Owners will not receive payment for their vehicle.
Documents showing the car's title must be attached to the form.
WAKEFIELD (KTIV) - The town of Wakefield is still looking for help with their clean-up efforts.
A tornado tore through fields and flattened farm homes Monday night.
Volunteers are asked to report to the Wakefield Fire Hall between 8-5 this week.
If you have heavy equipment that can help with moving debris, you're asked to bring that as well.
PILGER (KOLN) - Among all of the rubble laying within the town of Pilger was the remains of a home owned by Francis Hunke. That's where one of the hundreds of volunteers working uncovered a gem that Hunke hadn't seen in decades.
Hunke: "I bought this wedding ring 50 years ago for $300-400 and my first wife was washing dishes and thought she lost it there but they found it in the house today after 30 years of being missing."
The ring was discovered laying deep within the home's insulation. It's a piece of jewelery that Hunke says carried a special meaning to him and his first wife.
Hunke: "There's a lot of sentimental meaning to this ring because I bought it for her 50 years ago and she passed away five years ago."
Hunke says he now plans on passing that ring down through his family.
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Federal assistance is available to northeast Nebraska producers who lost livestock in the June tornadoes.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is offering $100,000 to producers to help them properly dispose of animal carcasses. Producers have until July 18 to apply.
The USDA can also provide technical assistance in safely disposing the carcasses.
The assistance is available through the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service. Producers in Stanton, Wayne, Dixon, Thurston, Cuming and Cedar counties may be eligible. Other counties may be added if other storms hit before the July 18 deadline.
PILGER- Senator Deb Fischer visited Pilger Saturday to tour the damage caused by the tornadoes and talk to local residents.
Fischer wanted to let the community know she plans to help any way possible.
Sen. Fischer(R-NE): "I'm here today that people know that we are there for them. I have staff here with me so that people know that we are paying attention and we will be there to offer assistance in any way we can, Fischer said.
Governor Dave Heineman declared a state of emergency in Pilger. This is an important step in the recovery process.
Sen. Fischer(R-NE):"It's the first step in order to receive aid,"
Fischer is working on what can be done at the state level but is also working with the Governor's office on what can be done on the state level.
NORFOLK - The American Red Cross says volunteers are still needed in several areas of Northeast Nebraska where tornadoes caused massive destruction earlier this week. For those volunteering in Pilger, volunteers must be at least 18 years of age and may check in at the Wisner-Pilger Jr./Sr. High School between 6:30am and 3:00pm. Volunteers will be bussed to either Pilger or Wakefield. Those wishing to volunteer in the Wakefield area should check in at the Wakefield Fire Hall between 9am and 3pm. Volunteers need to be at least 19 years of age. People who want to volunteer in the recovery efforts in Dixon and Wayne Counties should also report to the Wakefield Fire Hall. Those interested in volunteering for the clean up efforts in Cedar County should report to the Coleridge Community Center or Laurel-Concord High School. Coleridge area cleanup will begin at 11:30am on Sunday. Laurel will not be holding cleanup on Sunday. Cedar County volunteers may also dial 2-1-1 from any phone.
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 toured the damage in Pilger Tuesday morning.