At least two people are dead and 16 others are in critical condition after two large tornadoes hit northeast Nebraska, devastating the small town of Pilger and damaging other areas. Residents who were evacuated Monday have been allowed to return to sift through the destruction.
Officials say a 5-year-old was killed in Pilger, with another death reported outside the town. The National Weather Service says the last tornado deaths in the area came 10 years ago.
"Stanton County Sheriff Mike Unger said up to three-quarters of Pilger, a town of about 350 people, was destroyed Monday," says CNN. "The severe weather also caused damage in the towns of Wisner, Stanton and Pender."
The twin tornadoes were caught in striking photographs and video clips, with one image showing them on either side of a rural highway.
"It was terribly wide. I had to get out of there. I drove east. I could see how bad it was. I had to get out of there," resident Marianne Pesotta tells local TV news KETV. Pilger is about 75 miles northwest of Omaha.
In nearby Wakefield, the storm ruined the remodeling job a farming family had just finished on their house. But members of the Slama family say they're just happy everyone survived the tornado they had watched from their front porch as it spun its way toward them.
"Everything is just stuff. I have my boys, and my husband, I've got family over here already. It's just stuff. It's stuff," Darcy Slama tells local TV KTIV.
"My dad said that there was dirt coming straight at us, and then saw debris coming, and said, 'get in the basement right now,' " Logan Slama says.
Update at 6:10 p.m. ET:
The National Weather Service in Omaha has confirmed that one of the two twisters that hit Pilger did "EF4 damage." An EF4 tornado packs winds as high as 200 mph.