OMAHA (KPTM)- Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman is touring several cities to observe damage from Sunday night's storm. Monday he toured Beaver Crossing, Cordova and Sutton where homes and businesses were damaged by high winds, rain and tornadic activity. Based upon assessments, Gov. Heineman issued a State Disaster Declaration.
The Governor and NEMA have seen downed power lines extensive damage including loss of homes, walls, roofs, machine sheds, and irrigation equipment.
“There is extensive damage in Beaver Crossing and Cordova,” said Gov. Heineman while on the way to Sutton. “Nebraska emergency management officials are actively coordinating needs assessments with local emergency workers. Even when disaster strikes, I see friends and neighbors caring for and helping each other. This is Nebraska at its best.”
Upon seeing the affected areas and speaking with emergency personnel, Gov. Heineman has approved a state disaster declaration through Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). An emergency declaration allows state personnel and resources to assist with emergency situations, and allows maximum flexibility to deploy Nebraska National Guard and NEMA resources, as needed.
The declaration notes the series of strong storms that moved across the state Sunday, May 11, have caused wide spread damage. It states that heavy rains and tornados caused extensive damage to homes, businesses and public infrastructure in Clay, Fillmore, Seward, York, Lancaster, Hamilton, Jefferson, Douglas, Sarpy and Saunders counties, and communities located within those counties.
Additionally, 20 Nebraska Army National Guard Soldiers from the 92nd Troop Command are mobilizing to state active duty to assist local emergency management officials in providing public safety support in the affected areas. The National Guard mission is expected to last approximately four to five days. NEMA has dispatched teams into Seward and Clay Counties to access and assist the local responders with disaster response and recovery needs.
The Governor was joined by Al Berndt, Assistant Director of Nebraska Emergency Management Agency. Gov. Heineman met with Terry and JoAnn Paulsen whose home sustained major damage.
The American Red Cross is also in the hard hit Nebraska towns of Beaver Crossing and Cordova. An emergency shelter opened up in Utica to help residents impacted by the storm. It is at Centennial High School.
“In the days and weeks to come, the Red Cross will be coordinating with emergency officials and local community partners to help residents impacted by tonight’s tornadoes get back on their feet,” said Jill Orton, Region Disaster Officer. “The Red Cross will keep the shelter open as long as needed, in addition to providing mobile feeding and mental health support to those affected by the storm.”
The Red Cross offers the following tips for those in the affected area to stay safer:
• Continue listening to local radio or television stations or a NOAA Weather Radio for updated information and instructions. If you are away from home, return only when authorities say it is safe to do so.
• Avoid damaged areas as your presence might hamper rescue and other emergency operations and put you at further risk from the residual effects of tornadoes.
• Stay out of damaged buildings.
• When it is safe to return home, wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and sturdy shoes when examining your walls, doors, staircases and windows for damage.
• Watch out for fallen power lines or broken gas lines and report them to the utility company immediately.
• Use battery-powered lanterns or flashlights when examining buildings. Avoid using candles.
• If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and get everyone out of the building quickly. Turn off the gas using the outside main valve if you can, and call the gas company from a neighbor’s home. If you turn off the gas for any reason, it must be turned back on by a professional.
• Clean up spilled medications, bleaches, gasoline, or other flammable liquids that could become a fire hazard.
• Take pictures of the damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance claims.
• Use the telephone only for emergency calls. Telephone lines are frequently overwhelmed in disaster situations. They need to be kept clear for emergency calls to get through.
• Watch your animals closely. Keep all your animals under your direct control. Your pets may be able to escape from your home or through a broken fence. Pets may become disoriented, particularly because tornadoes and the heavy rains that accompany them will usually affect scent markers that normally allow animals to find their homes. To help disaster victims please contact the American Red Cross redcross.org, or call 1-800-RED-CROSS.
The Salvation Army is responding to the storms too. An Emergency Disaster Services mobile canteen and crew from Lincoln, Neb. is in Beaver Crossing today, serving food and beverages to emergency and clean-up crews that struck that community last night. The Grand Island Salvation Army is also responding to storms that ravaged the town of Sutton, Neb. The Salvation Army will remain on the scene for as long as needed.
Contributions to assist The Salvation Army's storm relief work can be mailed to The Salvation Army, 10755 Burt St., Omaha NE, 68114 or to donate online visit www.givesalvationarmy.org.