The National Weather Service says as many as nine tornadoes hit northeast Nebraska and northwest Iowa from 6-7:45 p.m. Friday. Damage assessment crews were touring the area Saturday.
NWS meteorologist Mike Fuhs said preliminary reports show two tornadoes in northeast Nebraska around 6 p.m., including one that left a path of destruction near Wayne and Macy, and one just five miles north of Emerson.
Brian Smith of the Omaha/Valley National Weather Service Office said preliminary findings indicate the Wayne tornado would be classified as at least an F3. "It was a very strong tornado, a significant tornado. Damage began six miles south, southwest of Wayne."
In Iowa, Fuhs said it appears there were tornadoes north and south of Sioux City as well as those west and north of Hinton, east of Moville, at Quimby and one south of Cherokee. They destroyed nearly two dozen farmsteads in Woodbury County and some 60 more were damaged.
County Emergency Management Director Gary Brown said 20 farmsteads were destroyed in the storms that cut a path 35 miles long from Sloan to Pierson. One person suffered minor injuries in a car accident associated with the storm. Brown said at least several hundred residences along the storm's path are without power, mostly in rural areas. Some phone service is also out. "There's a lot of cleanup to do here. There's a lot of damage."
The Wayne tornado caused millions of dollars in damage. Mayor Ken Chamberlain said at least 15 people were hurt, one critically.
"This morning we've begun assessment of damages. I've been traveling around the damage sites. It's much worse in person than it appears in pictures that I've seen. It's heartbreaking. You get this feeling that you've been punched in the gut. A lot of people's hard work is destroyed this morning. The rebuilding process will be lengthy. It's really heart wrenching to see all the damage, but I have all confidence in this community. We have a ton of volunteers. It's been phenomenal."
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman issued an emergency declaration for Wayne and will visit there on Sunday.
A number of businesses, including a farm implement showroom and a grain elevator in Wayne were destroyed. Many other businesses and homes stretching from Wayne to Cherokee, Iowa, are missing roofs and sections of walls. Windows in buildings and vehicles have been smashed. A semitrailer and tractor were overturned.
Nebraska Emergency Management spokeswoman Jodie Fawl said at least 10 homes and several dozen businesses were damaged. Fawl said three farmhouses in Antelope County were damaged, but it wasn't immediately clear whether they were hit by a tornado.
There were no reports of damage on the Wayne State College main campus.
Sioux City television station KTIV reported trees around town were stripped of their bark and trees and power lines were down. Cell phone service was not working.
Nebraska Public Power District spokesman Mark Becker said Saturday that no outages have been reported, though two NPPD transmission lines and some 20 wooden power structures were damaged in the storms.
Messages for the Northeast Nebraska Public Power district, which serves Wayne, did not immediately return messages to confirm or dispel reports of outages in and around Wayne. A dispatcher at the Wayne Police Department said she had no information on power outages or disruptions in phone service.
Fuhs said it's unusual to get "not just this many tornadoes this late, but tornadoes this strong." Fuhs said a couple of the tornadoes are estimated to have been one-quarter to one-half mile wide.