Numerous severe thunderstorms moving through Nebraska on Friday, May 12, set a state record by causing 50 tornado warnings to be issued.
The 50 Nebraska tornado warnings includes 33 issued by the National Weather Service office in Valley, according to Valley office, according to Taylor Nicolaisen, a meteorologist at the Valley site. Some of the warnings may have been duplicates, he said.
“We have 15 confirmed tornadoes touching down in our (coverage) area,” Nicolaisen said. “It’s possible there were a couple more than that, too.”
Burt County saw four confirmed tornadoes from the May 12 storms.
According to the National Weather Service, the largest was an EF-2 twister that ran parallel to Highway 77 for nearly 11 miles before lifting back into the storm clouds.
This tornado started around 6:20 p.m. near Burt County Road H, the Craig blacktop, a little over two miles west of Highway 77. The tornado started moving north-northeast and then curved and was moving due north. As it moved north it gained strength and started destroying outbuildings and trees at various farmsteads, reaching EF-2 strength. That rating denotes wind speeds of between 111 mph and 135 mph.
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According to reports from the National Weather Service, by the time the tornado reached County Road K, it became nearly five-eighths of a mile wide. Nearly a half-mile width of double-wide wooden transmission poles were snapped north of County Road L. The tornado, which was wrapped in rain, continued trekking to the north, damaging farmstead after farmstead, as well as uprooting and snapping trees. The tornado eventually weakened at 6:44 p.m., three miles west of Lyons. Two people were injured by the tornado. One injured his head when a tree fell on a shed where the person had taken cover inside. The other person had cuts to his face from flying glass.
Storm spotters reported a tornado just to the east of the much larger main tornado. This anti-cyclonic satellite tornado appeared to have caused damage to center pivot irrigation systems and power lines as it traveled north for approximately one mile.
Although the emergency sirens sounded in Tekamah twice, a twister wasn’t close to the city. Storm chasers reported a long rope tornado southwest of Tekamah at approximately 7:23. The twister appeared to extend out the south side of the storm, an opinion supported by radar data at that time. It was on the ground for nearly half a mile and was estimated to be 50 yards wide. No damage was reported and length and width are estimated based on first-hand reports, NWS said.
A fourth tornado was witnessed and reported with video evidence east of Tekamah at approximately 7:43 p.m. The tornado lasted for only 15 to 30 seconds. No damage was reported as it was over open fields.
The bigger issue in Tekamah was the rain.
While the city officially received 1.38 inches, local reports of up to 4.5 inches were received. The heavy rain caused locally minor flooding in some spots. In town, for example, the rain briefly overwhelmed storm sewers on the south end of town, filling the streets with water but little, if any, damage was reported.