Alice Soto thought her Scottsbluff home was being ripped apart on Tuesday night as a storm pounded the area. When she began checking on things, she spotted something out of her window: The roof of the mobile home next to hers was laying on the ground.
Inside that home, Lydia Voss, awoke to the sound of water running. She ran to the back of her home where her grandsons were sleeping. Water was pouring down a hole where the roof should have been.
“I got my two grandsons out of there and then noticed it pouring in my room,” said Voss, whose home is located in the 1000 block of 16th Street. “It didn’t stop there. It started pouring in the bathroom.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Voss stood in the hallway and pointed at the ceiling in her bedroom. The sky was visible over the spot where she laid her head every night.
Voss said she sustained significant damage to her roof during the two storms that occurred last week and her nephew had patched things up but his handiwork was no match for the high winds that accompanied Tuesday night’s storms.
Jerad Allen, a senior meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Cheyenne, said wind speeds ranged from 60 mph to over 90 mph. He said one Scottsbluff weather station reported a 91 mph gust around 10:30 p.m.
“She just can’t catch a break,” said Soto as she motioned to Voss’ car, which was parked in front of her home. The windshield was cracked so severely that Voss can’t drive it. “One person can only take so much.”
Voss teared up as she worried about how she would pay for repairs on the home she’s lived in for more than 10 years. Her neighbor encouraged her to look into fundraising options to help cover the cost of repairs.
She’s also concerned about her grandsons and the other children she babysits.
“I can’t have kids in here,” Voss said.
Carissa Smith, of the Firefighter Ministry, confirmed they were helping Voss with a hotel room for the next week because her home is currently unlivable.
Additional damage was reported across the Tri-City area.
A large metal cactus had adorned Dana Miller’s yard on Five Rocks Road for nearly 10 years. This morning, the cactus was flattened against the ground.
“It just twisted it off at the base,” Miller said of the high winds that accompanied the storm.
Larry Gibbs, of Gering, reported he measured 2½ inches of rain and clocked winds at 91 mph. Worst of all, he said, was losing an old peach tree in his backyard.
Leslie and Court Cook had several sections of their privacy fence blown down at their home in north Scottsbluff. Cook said she didn’t get a chance to get a good look at the fence until Wednesday morning because the heavy rains had flooded their yard during the storm.
“Looking out the front window, it literally reminded me of being inside the dishwasher when it’s on the heavy-duty cycle,” Cook said. “There was just so much water.”
Leslie Cook works at Wel-Life Assisted Living in Scottsbluff where the facility’s maintenance was working to clear a large branch downed behind that building. Cook said she was more surprised that the fence came down than the tree branch.
“It’s been through a lot since we bought the house, so I was surprised it actually came down this time,” she said of the wood fence.
Jim Petitt, who lives on Avenue O, said a large section of a tree in his backyard came down. He described the night as “a mess.”
“I’m surprised the cable didn’t go out in the high winds,” he said. “Fortunately, it only went out for a short time.”
Gary Stranske lost a large tree branch in his yard in north Scottsbluff. He said the branch came down around 12:30 a.m.
“I watched it from the window,” he said. “I saw that branch go just like that. I’m just glad it didn’t come down on the house.”
Mike’s Tree Service was working on the downed branch at Stranske’s house, but he said they were just going to do enough first thing Wednesday to get it out of the street, then move on to others around the city that needed attention right away before coming back to clean up at Stranske’s.
“We had crews out overnight Wednesday to start cleaning up,” said Bob Buhr, Gering Parks superintendent. “We’ve had major damage in all the city parks and it should take about four days to finish.”
Riverside Discovery Center Director Anthony Mason said there were at least five large trees uprooted, three of which hit or pulled up fences. The facility also sustained other wind and water damage, however, the damage was contained to the perimeter of the grounds and no buildings were damaged and no animals were harmed. Mason said RDC staff and multiple community volunteers were on site working to repair the fences and get started clearing the trees. Aulick’s was going to help with removal of some of the larger, more difficult to remove trees and debris.
Buhr also reported that an RV pop-up trailer had flipped over in the high winds, which also brought down several power poles.
According to Nebraska Public Power spokesman Mark Becker, the storm caused separate outages in Scottsbluff and one in Terrytown. Around 11:45 p.m., a tree fell into the primary distribution line in Scottsbluff, knocking out power for 181 customers. Shortly after, two separate equipment malfunctions left a total of 50 customers without power.
In Terrytown, 561 residents were without power after a tree fell into the primary distribution line around 12:30 a.m.
Becker said things were repaired quickly, with most customers restored by 2:30 a.m., although some didn’t have power until around 5:30 a.m. Gering residents also were without power for a time, but additional information or numbers weren’t available at press time.
Along with high winds, the storm brought dime- to nickel-sized hail and heavy rainfall with official reports of 1.18 inches in Scottsbluff and 2.10 inches in Gering, Allen said.
More storms were likely in store for Wednesday night and Thursday, although Allen said they’ll be more isolated.
“We can’t rule out a storm today or tomorrow, but they won’t be as widespread,” Allen said.
As the community starts the cleanup process, the City of Gering announced that residents can take tree limbs to the city’s tree dump on East U Street by the wastewater treatment plant. Tree dump hours are from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. City personnel will not be able to pick up tree limbs from the curbside.
Gering residents can call 308-436-9046 for more information.
Scottsbluff residents can take branches to the tree dump on County Road 26. To get there, begin at Highway 26 and Highland Road. Drive approximately 3 miles east on Highland Road until you reach County Road 26. Turn right on CR 26 and drive 1.25 miles south. The entrance is on the west side of the facility on CR 26.
Scottsbluff residents can call 308-630-0985 if they have questions.