Pilger Residents Sift Through Tornado Damage


Pilger residents got a chance to sift through the damage from Monday's deadly tornado on Tuesday.

Officials estimate the town is 75 percent destroyed, with all business gone.

"Our house is, was next to the white house over there and it's gone," said Nancy Mattson as she pointed towards her destroyed town.

"The only thing that's left of the house is the three closets and our basement's still intact, but everything else is gone, vehicles, everything," said Mattson.

She said one of her sons and her husband rode out the storm in that basement and walked away uninjured.

Others hid in a vault at the bank downtown. When they emerged, the side of the building had been ripped off.

A day later, they're picking up.

"We're finding a few things," said Mattson as she and her son rolled suitcases down Highway 15. The portion of that road bordering Pilger was closed Tuesday. The town was too, except to emergency workers and residents like Mattson.

She had one word for the feeling in her community of about 350 people.

"Just devastation. It was a nice town," said Mattson.

But, 24 hours after the storm there were already talks of rebuilding.

"Yeah, our town was hit hard, but you know we'll make it through it. We're just going to take it day by day and week by week and rebuild," said fire chief and village board member Kory Koehlmoos.

Mattson is waiting on her insurance to decide if she'll rebuild, but there could be resources available if she does.

Governor Dave Heineman declared the town a disaster area shortly after the tornado swept through.

"If you see the motto of this town, this is a tough little town and they're not going to die. In Nebraska that doesn't happen and we're going to be here to help them," said Heineman.

Residents weren't waiting for reinforcements Tuesday, already hammering and cutting down trees. But, some said they'll welcome volunteers in the coming weeks.

Volunteers will be let into Pilger for the first time Wednesday. If you'd like to help, you're asked to meet at the high school in Wisner at 7:00 a.m.