Residents begin going through the rubble after tornadoes hammer parts of Nebraska and Iowa

Gopala Penmetsa walks past his house after it was leveled by a tornado near Omaha, Neb., on Friday, April 26, 2024. (Chris Machian/Omaha World-Herald via AP)


The Associated Press

OMAHA, Neb. Residents began sifting through the rubble Saturday after a tornado plowed through suburban Omaha, Nebraska, demolishing homes and businesses as it moved for miles through farmland and into subdivisions.

People gathered in the streets in the Elkhorn area of Omaha amid the scattered remains of the homes and Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen planned to tour the area then hold a news conference later Saturday in Omaha.

The Friday night tornadoes wreaked havoc in the Midwest, causing a building to collapse with dozens of people inside and destroying and damaging hundreds of homes.

There have been several reports of injuries but no fatalities reported.

Three people were hurt in Nebraska’s Lancaster County when a tornado hit an industrial building, causing it to collapse with 70 people inside. Several were trapped, but everyone was evacuated and the injuries were not life-threatening, authorities said.

A tornado is seen near north of Waverly, Neb., on Friday, April 26, 2024. (Chris Machian/Omaha World-Herald via AP)

One of the most destructive tornadoes moved for miles Friday through mostly rural farmland before chewing up homes and other structures in the suburbs of Omaha, a city of 485,000 people with a metropolitan area population of about 1 million.

Photos on social media also showed heavy damage in the small town of Minden, Iowa, about 30 miles northeast of Omaha.

Jeff Theulen, chief deputy of the Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office, said at a late Friday briefing that 40 to 50 homes had been completely destroyed. Two injuries were reported but none were life-threatening.

School buses have been brought in to give residents a ride out of town if they need one, he said. He asked others to stay away as it’s a very dangerous area with power lines down and piles of debris where homes used to be.

“It’s heartbreaking to see these people who have lost houses, cars, essentially their life until they have to rebuild it,” he said.

The forecast for Saturday was ominous. The National Weather Service issued tornado watches early Saturday for northwestern Texas and across western Oklahoma.

“Tornadoes, perhaps significant tornadoes,” were possible Saturday afternoon and evening, said weather service meteorologist Bruce Thoren in Norman, Okla.

The threat of tornadoes extended into parts of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Arkansas. Forecasters warned that large hail and strong wind gusts were also possible.

Hundreds of houses were damaged in Omaha on Friday, mostly in the Elkhorn area in the western part of the city, Omaha police Lt. Neal Bonacci said and police and firefighters went door-to-door to help people.

Terry Kicking sifts through the damage after a tornado leveled his home, Friday, April 26, 2024, in Omaha, Neb. (Nikos Frazier/Omaha World-Herald via AP)

In one area of Elkhorn, dozens of newly built, large homes were damaged. At least six were wrecked, including one that was leveled, while others had their top halves ripped off. Dozens of emergency vehicles responded to the area.

“We watched it touch down like 200 yards over there and then we took shelter,” said Pat Woods, who lives in Elkhorn. “We could hear it coming through. When we came up, our fence was gone and we looked to the northwest and the whole neighborhood’s gone.”

Kim Woods, his wife, added, “The whole neighborhood just to the north of us is pretty flattened.”

Three people, including a child, were in the basement of the leveled home when the tornado hit but got out safely, according to Dhaval Naik, who said he works with home’s owner.

KETV-TV video showed one woman being removed from a demolished home on a stretcher in Blair, a city just north of Omaha.

Two people were transported for treatment, both with minor injuries, Bonacci said.

“People had warnings of this and that saved lives,” Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said of the few serious injuries.

The tornado warning was issued in the Omaha area on Friday afternoon just as children were due to be released from school. Many schools had students shelter in place until the storm passed.

“Was it one long track tornado or was it several tornadoes?” Kern of the National Weather Service asked.

The agency planned to send out multiple crews over the next several days to determine the number of tornadoes and their strength, which could take up to two weeks, she said.

From left; Ally Mercer, Gabe Sedlacek Kaleb Andersen and Austin Young watch a tornado from a seventh floor parking garage on Friday, April 26, 2024, in Lincoln, Neb. (Kenneth Ferriera/Lincoln Journal Star via AP)

Another tornado hit an area on the eastern edge of Omaha, passing directly through parts of Eppley Airfield, the city’s airport. Officials halted aircraft operations to access damage but then reopened the facility, Omaha Airport Authority Chief Strategy Officer Steve McCoy said.

The passenger terminal was not hit by the tornado but people rushed to storm shelters until the twister passed, McCoy said.

After passing through the airport, the tornado crossed the Missouri River and into Iowa, north of Council Bluffs.

In Lancaster County, where three people were injured when an industrial building collapsed, sheriff’s officials also said they had reports of a tipped-over train near Waverly, Nebraska.

The Omaha Public Power District reported nearly 10,000 customers were without power in the Omaha area. The number had dropped to just more than 4,300 Saturday morning.

Pillen, the Nebraska governor, posted on the social platform X that he had ordered state resources to be made available to help with the emergency response and to support first responders as they assess the damage.