LINCOLN (AP) — A supercell storm system spawned an October tornado that damaged homes in several eastern Nebraska communities and ripped through a state park, but left no one hurt, according to initial reports from officials Friday.
Forecasters said another damaging storm system could likely move into eastern Nebraska on Friday. They said the highest tornado threat appears to be in northeast Nebraska and west-central Iowa.
Tornadoes in Nebraska occur most frequently in June, but they have hit the state in October before. National Weather Service records show that 18 tornadoes were confirmed in Nebraska in October 2000, 11 in October 2001 and 10 in October 1998.
National Weather Service meteorologist Barbara Mayes said Thursday's tornado was first spotted just after 10 p.m., two miles east of Hickman in Lancaster County.
Fred and Connie Gustin said they were in their home on Hickman Road when a television weather forecast caught their attention.
“When they circled Hickman, we hit the basement,” Connie Gustin said.
“We just got down to the basement and heard the window break,” Fred Gustin added. “It was, of course, raining like mad.”
When he checked outside a few minutes later, he said it was clear that the storm had hit their neighborhood hard.
The roof and siding to the Gustins’ home were damaged, but he said they were lucky compared to some of their neighbors.
At Wagon Train State Recreation Area east of Hickman, the tornado left two campers in the park heavily damaged and another partially submerged. Several homes on the west side of the lake were damaged, and three of the park's restrooms were heavily damaged or demolished.
Most areas of the park have been closed until officials can assess the damage and begin cleanup and repairs.
Lancaster County emergency manager Doug Ahlberg said at least 10 farmsteads sustained damage.
The tornado whipped past the towns of Bennet and Palmyra before dissipating. The storm that bore it kept moving east-northeast with heavy rain, hail and straight-line winds, knocking down trees in Plattsmouth — about 20 miles south of Omaha — before crossing the Missouri River into Iowa.
National Weather Service meteorologist Cathy Zapatocny said heavy rain drenched a wide swath of eastern Nebraska, including a 24-hour total of 2.88 inches at Eppley Airfield in Omaha and 3.3 inches about two miles east of Roca in Lancaster County. Baseball-size hail was reported north of Wilber in Saline County, she said.