The Heat Is Online

Nebraska Battered by A Foot of Rain, Tornadoes

One dead, five injured as tornadoes, huge hail and foot of rain strike Nebraska

The Associated Press, June 23, 2003

DESHLER, Neb.  Up to a foot of rain and at least seven tornadoes pounded in southern Nebraska, killing one person and destroying ''quite a few'' homes.

Residents of one town reported hail that look ''like someone dropping volleyballs down.''

Four tornadoes struck in and around Deshler starting at 6:40 p.m. Sunday, said Todd Holsten of the National Weather Service in Hastings.

''They've got the town all blocked off,'' said Gordon Fleming, a Thayer County commissioner who lives in the town of around 900. ''It blew some buildings away here.''

One person was killed and five were injured in Deshler, about 75 miles southwest of Lincoln near the Kansas line, said Malisa Sittler, personnel director at Thayer County Health Services in Hebron. It was Nebraska's first tornado death since 1988.

''There's a lot of damage from trees just landing on cars and homes. It's unbelievable,'' said Bob Reinke of Reinke Manufacturing, a maker of irrigation equipment and flatbed trucks. He the storm destroyed one building at the factory and the town's lumber yard.

''We're just trying to figure out what's out there,'' said Margie Holle, whose husband, Alan Holle, is Deshler's mayor. ''I've been in the basement all night.''

Gov. Mike Johanns planned to tour the Deshler area Monday, said spokesman Chris Peterson. Because of a threat of more severe weather, he chose to drive rather than fly, Peterson said.

There were preliminary reports of up to 12 inches of rain in Hebron, about 10 miles east of Deshler. Radar indicated 6 to 13 inches of rain throughout Thayer County, said Jared Guyer of the weather service in Hastings. High water closed a highway just south of Hebron.

One resident of Aurora said hail punched a hole in his roof that was large enough for him to crawl through, said Dale Obermeier, a weather service spotter in Aurora, who said the hail also dug holes in his yard.

''When it came down it looked just like someone dropping volleyballs down,'' Obermeier said.

The weather service planned to investigate the hail reports, Guyer said.

''That would be record-setting hail size,'' he said. ''We plan to check that out before we call the Guinness (Book of Records) folks.''

The name of the person killed in Deshler was not immediately released.
Elsewhere, the roof of a movie theater collapsed Sunday after about an inch of rain fell at Little Falls, Minn. Nobody was hurt.

About 20 people were watching ''The Hulk'' at the Falls Cinema when a section of roof gave way and the movie screen fell toward the audience.

''It was pretty unexpected, the extra special effects,'' said theater owner Peter Schoell.

Earlier, at least two tornados struck the Nebraska Panhandle on Friday, destroying farm buildings and trees and derailing railroad cars.

© 2003 Associated Press.