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May 17, 2004

Tornado tears up farmstead near Cushing

From: Grand Island Independent, NE - May 17, 2004

Hail strips some crops in area

By Krystal Overmyer
The Independent

CUSHING -- Sitting at home alone Sunday night, 55-year-old Pat Geiger didn't think much of her sons' warnings of tornadoes near Cushing.

"I looked out the window, saw a little bit of rain and thought, 'Oh yeah, sure,'" she said on Monday.

But about 8 p.m., when Geiger peeked out the door to let her dog outside, she saw pieces of her farm were missing or had changed. The roof to a 2-year-old shed had partially come off, and her son's large bread truck was overturned. The nearby chicken coop had slid two feet off its foundation.

"I hadn't heard anything at all," said Geiger, who is hearing impaired. "I just came outside and I thought, 'My God, what happened here?'"

The tornado near Cushing was one of three believed to have touched down in Sherman and Howard counties on Sunday, part of a storm system that brought 60 mph winds to Grand Island and hail and heavy rain to the surrounding areas.

Meteorologist Steve Carmel at the National Weather Service office in Hastings said the service issued five tornado warnings for Sherman and Howard counties, with the first in Sherman County at 6:21 p.m. The weather service received six reports of tornadoes in the area.

In Rockville, a tornado touched the ground for three minutes, beginning at 6:48 p.m.

Unlike the damage to Geiger's farm in Howard County, Carmel said the service had received no reports of damage in Sherman County.

Steve Kisner, warning coordinator meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Hastings, said the Cushing tornado ranked an F0 on the Fujita Tornado Damage Scale. An F0 is the weakest of damage categories and is characterized by minor damage.

Carmel said no storm-related injuries or deaths had been reported as of Monday.

The storm system came in the thick of tornado season, which runs from May to early June, he said.

"What we're seeing isn't unusual," he said.

The storm caused other damage to areas in the region.

Strong winds pushed a grain bin across a road in Hall County, Carmel said. Other minor wind damage was reported in Clay and Filmore counties and caused spotted power outages.

Hail was reported in Dawson, Greeley, Howard and Sherman counties. In Farwell, the weather service reported 2-inch hail.

The most rain was recorded in Arcadia, with nearly 1.7 inches, Carmel said. Grand Island reported 0.1 to 0.15 inches. He said the rainfall would be a small help to Nebraska' drought problems.

Scott Brady, University of Nebraska extension educator for Sherman, Howard, Greeley and Valley counties, said the most severe hail stripped crops in some areas.

Brady said it would take a week or more before assessing how badly crops -- particularly corn -- were damaged.

Heavy rainfall in some areas also could create problems for immature crops. Brady said he'd received reports of erosion and flooding in low-lying areas, and some fences were washed out.

"The best thing in these areas will be some sunshine and warm weather," he said.

In Cushing, Geiger's two sons drove from Lincoln to help their mother clear branches and debris from her farm.

The shed, now partially roofed, was close to Geiger's heart. The building was made as a workshop for her husband, who died 18 months ago.

Though the upturned truck and damaged buildings were just yards away, only a few shingles and windows were damaged in Geiger's home.

Geiger said her good fortune came from her husband.

"That's why the house didn't get hit," she said. "He watches over."

© The Grand Island Independent