Tornadoes strike central Nebraska; strong rain hits Lincoln

2011-06-20T20:30:00Z 2011-06-21T14:21:04Z Tornadoes strike central Nebraska; strong rain hits LincolnBy MITCH SMITH / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

Night came two hours early Monday.

At 7 p.m., the street lights in downtown Lincoln flipped on as the sky turned black. A round of heavy thunderstorms -- including hail and wind that had trees bending close to the ground -- blew in minutes later.

Streets emptied, trees fell, lightning struck homes,  power was lost and roads were blocked as the storm hit. But Lincoln was spared the worst of a barrage of storms that produced tornadoes and damaged homes in parts of central and eastern Nebraska.

Counties to the south and west of Lincoln fought the elements earlier Monday. Tornadoes were reported in Polk and York counties, among others, and play stopped in the College World Series. No injuries were reported.

A home in the 2900 block of North Sixth Street caught fire, possibly after a lightning strike, Lincoln Fire and Rescue acting Battalion Chief Guy Pinkman said. No one was hurt, but firefighters were forced to cut a hole in the roof to contain the blaze.

More than 1,030 customers were without power between 44th and 58th streets and A and Q streets for about 45 minutes, a Lincoln Electric Service spokesman said.

Dave Fobert, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Omaha, said it was too early to predict how the heavy rain would affect flooding in the Missouri River basin.

"I don't have any idea on this point now," he said, adding they'll just have to wait to see how much rain falls, and where it falls.

Polk County

Two farmsteads were destroyed in Polk County when a line of tornadoes struck the county, emergency manager Bob Carey said.

Carey said the home and outbuildings of the two farms, one near the town of Polk and another west of Osceola, were lost.

Polk County received the brunt of a line of tornadoes that developed at about 5:20 p.m. in Hamilton County and lasted more than an hour.

The Polk County Sheriff's office was operating on generators at about 8 p.m., and a dispatcher said emergency workers were assessing the damage.

A National Weather Service report said a tornado destroyed a shed nine miles south of Silver Creek.

York County

Several freight cars were reported knocked off railroad tracks Monday evening near Bradshaw. The cars were parked on the tracks on the outskirts of town and there were no injuries. It was not immediately known what railroad owned the cars, or if they were hauling freight.

A multiple-vortex tornado was reported on the ground in York County at about 5:54 p.m. by a trained spotter. A York County Sheriff's dispatcher confirmed that the county received damage, but declined to provide more information.

Buffalo County

Meteorologist Briona Chester said a house was damaged near Miller while high-voltage power lines were down in Amherst. Both communities are in Buffalo County.

Chester said there were several reports of irrigation systems, or pivots, being damaged in farm fields.

Sherman County

A storm chaser said a tornado touched down in Sherman County near Rockville. 

Lincoln County

In Lincoln County, the Sutherland Volunteer Fire Department reported 5 to 6 inches of rain and flash flooding. Water was reported running over U.S. 30 between Sutherland and Paxton and some sandbagging was under way, closing the road briefly.

Douglas County

Strong storms halted play at the College World Series, as 70 mph winds were reported near Eppley Airfield.

Phelps County

Homes near Elm Creek sustained damage and pivots were turned over, according to news reports.

Dodge County:

Winds of more than 70 mph turned over trees and power lines and cut off power.

Cedar County

Trees fell in the town of Magnet and a farm building was moved off its foundation.

Antelope County

A building was torn apart by a thunderstorm near Clearwater when winds gusted at 70 mph and more than 2 inches of rain fell in a half hour.

Gage County

Trees and power lines were reported down in Adams. A sheriff's dispatcher was not aware of any serious damage.

Saunders County

Two-foot diameter trees were turned over in Ashland with winds estimated at 70 mph.

Madison County

Small hail covered the ground as the storm ripped many trees from the ground in Norfolk.

Reach Mitch Smith at 402-473-2655 or msmith@journalstar.com. The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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