OMAHA, Neb. – Residents in parts of eastern Nebraska and western Iowa were cleaning up Saturday after severe thunderstorms — some producing hurricane-force winds — shattered homes, tore down trees and left thousands without power.
The National Weather Service in Valley, just west of Omaha, said storms Friday night blasted Omaha and surrounding areas with heavy rain, hail and wind gusts of nearly 90 mph. The service has not confirmed any tornadoes with the storm, but has sent investigators to northeastern Nebraska and Bellevue, just south of Omaha, where the most damage was reported. No serious injuries were reported as of Saturday morning.
"Our office here in Valley recorded a gust up to 88 mph. That's hurricane force," said Weather Service meteorologist David Pearson. "We have unconfirmed reports of winds much higher. A lot of people with backyard equipment have reported winds around 100 mph."
Hurricane-force winds are those that exceed 74 mph.
Even sustained winds were high, registering around 60-70 mph, Pearson said.
Some homes in Bellevue were torn apart, and Offutt Air Force Base just south of the city requested that only essential personnel report to the base on Saturday as crews worked to clean up damaged homes and downed trees.
Omaha Public Power District, which serves Omaha and surrounding cities, reported more than 60,000 customers without power at the height of the storms. By midmorning Saturday, around 45,000 remained without power. Some smaller communities, like Louisville southwest of Omaha, were completely without power overnight.
MidAmerican Energy said more than 2,000 customers were still without power in Council Bluffs, Iowa, by midmorning Saturday.
Many roads in Cass County and streets in the city of Plattsmouth, south of Omaha, were impassable because of downed trees and power poles. The American Red Cross opened a shelter in the high school at Plattsmouth for families affected in southeastern Nebraska.
South of Lincoln, Beatrice saw damage to buildings on its west side. Radio station KWBE reported that the Homestead National Monument of America suffered damage to its education center grounds, with several large trees snapped and a radio tower bent over the top of one of the center's buildings.
The storm also forced the cancellation of the opening ceremonies Friday night of the College World Series in downtown Omaha.
A chance of scattered thunderstorms in the region was possible Saturday, Pearson said, but a respite from severe weather will be seen for at least the next week, which is expected to produce only sunny skies.