Cleanup begins after tornado, but recovery will take time in Bayard

Cleanup begins after tornado, but recovery will take time in Bayard
World-Herald News Service

BAYARD, Nebraska — Residents in a small western Nebraska town cleared away tree and building debris Tuesday after a tornado tore through the town.

The storm struck Bayard at 7:10 p.m. Monday, tearing the roof off a city-owned nursing home and damaging several homes. No injuries were reported.

Utility crews were trying to restore power to an estimated 80 percent of Bayard, which has about 1,200 residents.

Neighbors were helping neighbors with the cleanup, Mayor Michelle Coolidge said.

“People are trying to make quick, light work of it,” she said.

The storm felled trees and power lines all over town, and water supplies are low because city wells lacked the power to pump, Coolidge said.

The 45 residents at the nursing home, Chimney Rock Villa, were evacuated Monday to the high school, which was turned into a temporary shelter despite losing a portion of its roof over the wood shop. The mayor said the residents have since gone home with relatives or been temporarily housed at other area nursing homes.

“There’s people in the community who have lost everything. Livestock, crops, their houses, completely destroyed, so I think the recovery is going to extend far beyond the initial cleanup both financially and emotionally for the members of our community,” said Bayard Superintendent Travis Miller.

Damaged homes and agricultural buildings and dead livestock were reported north of Bayard. Coolidge said semitrailers were blown over on nearby highways, but the drivers weren’t hurt. Like many Bayard residents, Nolene Lattin saw damage to her home, property and vehicle from falling trees.

Lattin said the 60-year-old tree in front of her home was uprooted, taking concrete and grass with it, and one felled tree “completely smashed” her car. Her home, where she has lived for 20 years, also sustained holes in the roof.

The home of Scot and Lisa Ouderkirk was destroyed. The couple built the home 13 years ago. On Tuesday, windows were boarded up, gutters and shingles had been torn off the roof and siding and insulation lay on the ground.

“It hasn’t hit us yet; we’re still in shock mode,” Scot Ouderkirk, who is a city councilman, said of the extensive damage.

Though his home was damaged, he and another councilman were involved in helping get the Chimney Rock nursing home residents to shelter.

Carissa Smith, of Firefighter Ministry, said emergency management officials are advising no travel to Bayard, especially via Highway 26. Firefighter Ministry is acting as a donation point for supplies to Bayard responders. Smith said there are downed power lines along the highway.

“There are a lot of downed power lines and trees in town,” Smith said. “Unless you are experienced or have a watchful eye, I would say to try and stay away. It’s easy to get in the way.”

Crews were out doing cleanup work until late Monday and were back at it starting at 7 a.m. Tuesday morning. The Firefighter Ministry responded, taking its disaster relief trailer, and will be in Bayard again today.

Collections for donations are being taken at First Baptist Church.

The National Weather Service was expected to dispatch a survey team to Bayard to check the damage and confirm whether a tornado caused it. Heavy rain and hail also were reported in the area and earlier Monday in eastern Nebraska.

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