Tornadoes reported in Neb. as snow falls in west

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

OMAHA, Neb. -- Several tornadoes reportedly touched down Monday in north-central and eastern Nebraska while the western end of the state reeled from a late wintry blast.

The tornado-laden storm system moved northeast through the eastern quarter of the state, hitting Lincoln and Omaha about rush hour before moving into Iowa.

Television station KPTM in Omaha reported that the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency had confirmed five people were hurt and several buildings were damaged near Eagle, east of Lincoln.

NEMA spokesperson Logan Lueking said late Monday that it appeared the five people were in a car that was hit by debris from a storm-damaged building. The extent of the injuries was unknown.

Lueking said there were no other reports of injuries or major damage in Nebraska, although information was still coming in.

Doug Ahlberg, the emergency manager for Lancaster County, said his office was surveying damage at 11 locations in the greater Lincoln area.

Meanwhile, Barbara Mayes, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Valley, said late Monday that it appeared tornadoes touched down in western Cass County, near Eagle, and just across the state line in Harrison County, Iowa.

She said crews would be surveying damage in those areas today.

Earlier reports of tornadoes near Gretna, Millard and Wilson Island State Park, all in the greater Omaha area, were incorrect.

Mayes said the wording of tornado warnings sent out at the height of the storm implied tornadoes had been confirmed in those areas, but that was not the case.

The weather service was continuing to monitor storm activity in the Omaha area late Monday.

The weather service's North Platte office reported Monday afternoon that two tornadoes had touched down in north-central Nebraska.

Steve Carmel said the first was at 1:45 p.m. about nine miles south of Brownlee, in Brown County. It was on the ground for about two minutes.

The second, he said, was reported eight miles north of O'Neill, in Holt County, just before 3:30 p.m. Downed power lines were reported in the area.

The weather service on Monday posted a tornado watch that covered central and northeastern portions of the state, including the heavily populated counties that include Omaha and its suburbs.

Forecasters said hail up to 2 inches in diameter was possible, as well as wind gusts up to 70 mph.

Earlier, forecasters posted blizzard and winter storm warnings for most of the Panhandle through Tuesday morning.

Gary Randle, who manages the Motel 6 at the Panhandle intersection of U.S. Highways 20 and 385 in Chadron, said Monday morning began with just enough misty rain "to puddle in the parking lot."

That quickly turned to sleet, then around 30 minutes later the snow began. He estimated 2 inches had fallen in only an hour late Monday morning.

Snow accumulations ranging from 3 to 7 inches were expected by Tuesday morning.

Scottsbluff, near the Nebraska-Wyoming border in the Panhandle, issued a snow emergency through Wednesday. City road crews suspended plowing until early Tuesday because of poor visibility.

Several roads in the Panhandle west to the border with Wyoming and Colorado remained closed Monday evening because of blowing and drifting snow. High winds with gusts up to 55 mph made travel dangerous.


Associated Press Writer Nelson Lampe contributed to this report.

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