Tornado in Jefferson County confirmed as EF2

2013-05-28T14:05:00Z 2015-01-22T13:53:46Z Tornado in Jefferson County confirmed as EF2By ALGIS J. LAUKAITIS / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

As many as three tornadoes made tracks across Southeast Nebraska on Monday. The strongest, an EF2 with estimated wind speeds of 120 mph, tracked for six miles between Diller and Harbine. Tornadoes also caused damage near Marysville, across the border in Kansas.

In Jansen, a lightning strike is believed to have sparked a fire that destroyed a construction warehouse.

The unstable weather pattern that brought heavy rains Monday morning and more severe weather that  evening will persist at least through Wednesday, the weather service said.

There were no deaths or serious injuries, but across the area Tuesday people were left to piece together either what happened or bent objects.

The tornado that ripped through the Clay County town of Edgar on Monday night damaged houses and businesses, uprooted trees and knocked down power lines.

"I've never seen anything like this," said Martha Wacker, who has lived in Edgar for more than 50 years.

Two minor injuries were reported from the storm that struck a little after 7:30 p.m., Clay County emergency manager Loren Uden said. They included a driver whose car was lifted off the road. Edgar, population 493, is about 40 miles southeast of Hastings.

A survey team from the National Weather Service office in Hastings said Tuesday the damage was caused by a tornado. Wind speeds were estimated at 70 mph.

The tornado reportedly touched down about two miles west of Edgar between 7 and 7:30 p.m., Wacker said.

A warning siren sounded until electricity to the town was cut, she said. Local officials estimate the power may be out for five to seven days.

Wacker said the twister tore the roof off of the Edgar Hotel and Sugar Shack Country Candles, and it heavily damaged at least five grain bins at the Edgar Co-op.

A farmstead about a mile and a quarter west of Edgar was hit hard, she said. The house was left standing, but all of the outbuildings were gone.

"We're in the clean-up stage right now. We're putting the town back together," Wacker said.

The American Red Cross said workers from the Central Plains Chapter were at the fire hall to offer minor first aid, hot meals and other assistance.

According to a separate survey team from the National Weather Service office in Omaha, there were two tornadoes in Jefferson County and one in Gage County.

Meteorologist Jim Meyer said all three were in the same general vicinity, but more information won't be available until a survey team turns in its reports.

The strongest tornado, the EF2 that touched down in Jefferson County about two miles south of U.S. 136, threw a 2-by-4 board through a wall and broke a couple of windows in a home, while knocking over machine sheds and damaging multiple grain bins, according to Jefferson County Emergency Management Director John McKee.

"There was a resident home at the time when it came," McKee said. "They said they heard it and headed for the basement and they're all right."

Power lines were downed along Nebraska 103, forcing the highway to close for a couple of hours.

A lightning strike from the final round of thunderstorms Monday evening is believed to have sparked the Jansen warehouse fire.

The blaze destroyed a building owned by Goebel Construction on Broad and Maple streets, Jansen Fire Chief Gary Hermsmeier said.

“We had bad weather here earlier and then actually had a tornado warning around 9 p.m.,” Hermsmeier said. “When the second storm came through and the pager was going off, I figured it was another watch or warning, but no, we had a fire.”

Firefighters arrived at about 11 p.m. to find a fully involved blaze, Hermsmeier said. Neighboring departments from Jefferson and Thayer counties also responded.

The Jansen warehouse was locked and firefighters had difficulty gaining access.

“We eventually backed out and protected the extremities and neighbors and such,” Hermsmeier said.

Firefighters monitored the smoldering building through the night. The building, which held scaffolding and other construction equipment, was considered a total loss.

A rural Beatrice man reported that three grain bins were blown over and several center pivot irrigation systems were overturned. Blown-over trees blocked a road south of Ellis.

Trees were uprooted and a chicken house was damaged about six miles southwest of Shickley in southwest Fillmore County, officials said. Several power poles were knocked down about four miles south of Tobias in Saline County.

In Smith and Jewell counties of north central Kansas, the Weather Service said, an EF3 tornado that lasted 16 minutes remained on the ground for 5.8 miles.

A tornado also was blamed for significant damage to an implement dealer along U.S. 36 near Marysville, Kan.

The Beatrice Daily Sun and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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