With severe weather possible Friday, be aware the emergency sirens at 204th and Q in Omaha are not working.
Weather Alerts: Click here
A supercell storm system that spawned a tornado has damaged homes and businesses in several eastern Nebraska communities. No injuries have been reported.
National Weather Service meteorologist Barbara Mayes says the tornado was first spotted just after 10 p.m. Thursday two miles east of Hickman in Lancaster County. The twister roared northeast into Bennet and Palmyra before lifting up. At least one home was destroyed and two others badly damaged in Bennet, about 15 miles southeast of Lincoln. Two homes were significantly damaged near Hickman (see slideshow above).
An early morning phone call from a family friend couldn't prepare Nathan Godwin for what he was about to see.
"He just said he can't work today because his parents' house got hit by a tornado," Godwin told us.
A place Godwin used to call home had been ripped from end to end.
"I didn't think it was going to be this bad," he said. "So when I pulled up I was like, wow. It was a lot worse than what I expected."
The wreckage left a discernable path that the people in Hickman watched being cut into the earth.
Sam Kaplan's home was among those damaged and he told us, "I looked outside and trees are going like this instead of upright, and I was like what in the world? Come down and the next thing I know, I mean the yard it's just, it looks like a bomb went off."
The chaos of the storm gave way to a community pulling together toward recovery and, unfortunately, this is not an uncommon event.
"You live in torndado alley. Hallam, Nebraska just down there. I have picked up stuff for my buddies. Now it is my turn I guess."
Hallam was leveled by a tornado in 2004.
Schools in Bennet and Palmyra did not start classes until 10 a.m. Friday.
Warren Jensen woke up to twisted pieces of Bennet lying in places they didn't belong.
"Probably took less than 10 minutes and it was just total destruction," he said.
As quickly as the storm ripped through, the helping hands were outstretched. Neighbors and friends turned-up with work gloves on.
"I got help coming tomorrow from Lincoln Christian school," Jensen said. "So it's pretty touching."
Two miles away, M&M Truck and Trailer Sales is also rebuilding as power crews were restoring electricity.
Jensen said, "Ya know, I have been around here all my life. Just never happened before, so it's pretty touching."
Downed power lines and trees created hazardous road conditions. A transmission line fell across Highway 2 between Highway 43 and Palmyra, which forced the closure of Highway 2 until about 3:30 a.m.
Mayes says the storm carried straight-line winds that damaged homes and knocked down trees in Plattsmouth, about 20 miles south of Omaha. Hail the size of baseballs was reported in Wilber in Saline County.
Heavy rain was also reported, including more than 2 inches in Lincoln and 1.5 inches in Omaha by 1 a.m. Friday. As many as 1,800 lightning strikes were reported over a 10-minute span in the metro.
At one point more than 8,000 customers were left in the dark from the stormy weather. OPPD reported around 3,800 customers without power in Sarpy County, mostly near Gretna. MidAmerican Energy in Iowa had another 4,100 customers lose power, including about 1,900 in Council Bluffs. Alliant Energy said it had 350 customers without electricity, mostly around Boone, Iowa.
Tornadoes occur in Nebraska most frequently in June, though records show twisters hitting the state in October as well. Records indicate 18 tornadoes were confirmed in October 2000 and 11 in 2001 and 10 in 1998. The month with the fewest recorded tornadoes is February.
The National Weather Service says there's a likelihood of another damaging storm system moving into eastern Nebraska on Friday. Forecasters say the highest tornado threat appears to be in northeast Nebraska and west-central Iowa, including the Omaha area.