Driver who struck tree in GI storm identified

Driver who struck tree in GI storm identified

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GRAND ISLAND — A thunderstorm that moved through central Nebraska left thousands of people without electricity and Grand Island's streets flooded.

The National Weather Service said a rainfall total of 3.9 inches was reported Wednesday at Boelus in Howard County, and more than 2 inches of rain fell on parts of Grand Island, flooding and closing several underpasses for a time.

The Grand Island Independent reported that storm sirens began sounding at about 3 a.m. as strong winds and heavy rain moved through the area.

According to Hall County Emergency Management, heavy rain, hail and winds of up to 87 miles per hour struck overnight in central Nebraska, including Grand Island and all of Hall County.

The Hall County Sheriff's Department said a motorist died after running into a tree that had fallen across a road near Burwick. He was identified Thursday as Dennis Wells of Cairo.

Hall County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Jim Castleberry told the Grand Island Independent a tree had fallen across the road and was arched in such a way that Wells couldn't see it and drove into it.

Power lines, trees and limbs were down and debris littered streets and yards in Grand Island, and the weather service said buildings were damaged in the Fairfield and Glenvil areas.

The storm debris was cleared from the main thoroughfares in the city and crews spent Wednesday morning moving the many fallen trees and limbs that were blocking residential streets, the Independent reported.

Capt. Jim Duering of the Grand Island Police Department said that there were many minor traffic accidents caused by motorists swerving to avoid fallen trees. In addition, the traffic lights were out at most major intersections, which also wreaked its share of havoc. 

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission also temporarily closed the Mormon Island State Recreation Area because of storm damage.

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