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Governor issues emergency declaration
October 17, 2013 Staff Report   

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Photo by Lori Littell - Livestock losses have been devastating in the Midwest as seen in this photo taken along Highway 79 in North Dakota, just north of South Dakota border.

Gov. David Heineman issued an emergency declaration for parts of Nebraska hammered by severe weather.

At least 15 people were injured in Wayne when a reported tornado struck the town on Oct. 4. The tornado also destroyed four homes and the city’s softball complex. Several businesses were damaged as well.

On the other end of the state, in the northern Nebraska Panhandle, an unusual early October storm caught area ranchers off guard as they reported widespread loss of cattle that froze or suffocated in massive snow drifts while out on summer ranges.

Lt. Gov. Lavon Heidemann and Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Assistant Director Al Berndt were in the northern Panhandle Oct. 8 to continue work with local officials on recovery issues.

“The damage suffered in our communities as a result of the severe winter storm and tornadoes is extensive,” said Gov. Dave Heineman. “I have asked the Lt. Governor to be on the ground in the Chadron area to see damage first-hand. Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and other state agencies are working diligently to assess the situation and support local efforts. My thoughts are with the Nebraska families affected by the severe storms we have recently experienced throughout the state.”

The Lt. Governor and Berndt toured areas affected by the severe winter storm that hit the area over the Oct. 5 weekend. The Lt. Governor and Berndt started the morning in Chadron to meet with local officials.

Local ranchers throughout the area suffered heavy cattle loss due to the freezing conditions of the severe storm.

The Nebraska Department of Agriculture and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality are working with NEMA on this situation. The Department of Agriculture is asking Nebraska producers who suffered livestock losses to keep detailed records of those losses as they begin to assess the damage from the weekend.

Cattle loss was also devastating to western South Dakota, just north of the Panhandle. The Associated Press reported that as much as four feet of snow were dumped on parts of western South Dakota. Not only were thousands of people left without power, but thousands of cattle were left dead.

Silvia Christen, Executive Director for the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, says ranchers are reporting to her that they've lost 20 to 50 percent of their cattle herds.

Throughout the Oct. 5 weekend, the state’s Emergency Operations Center was operational and closely coordinating with local emergency responders. Specifically, NEMA had been in close contact with the Region 23 Emergency Manager, Nan Gould. Region 23 encompasses Sioux, Dawes, Box Butte and Sheridan Counties.

Soon after the storm passed, local emergency workers were cleaning up heavy debris caused by downed trees and power lines. Preliminary assessment shows heavy tree damage along the Highway 20 corridor from Rushville to Harrison, especially in the communities of Chadron and Crawford.

Gov. Heineman has issued an emergency declaration that encompasses the tornadoes and severe storms that have caused broad damage throughout the state. Gov. Heineman also toured the tornado damage in Wayne.
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