Northeast Nebraska devastated from tornadoes





Pilger early-response work winds down

Agricultural lands in need of clean-up

The Wisner volunteer center at Wisner High School is closing today (Monday) with cleanup ramping down this week in Pilger. People interested in volunteering after today should check-in by the Pilger city pool or call 402-833-1512 for volunteer information. The Pilger curfew is being lifted Monday night.

The donation center in Wisner is overflowing, including the donation of 1,000 pairs of shoes.

Wakefield - gleaning - food trailer help
Wakefield agricultural areas still need volunteers to help clean fields. The area has not received a significant amount of help. Food truck volunteers are also needed. Volunteers who want to help the Great Plains UMC hot foods ministry are requested through Friday of this week. Call chairperson Rose Roberts at 316-772-6811 to volunteer as a hot foods worker.

To help in the Wakefield area call the hotline at 402-287-2574. Sometime in the recent media the numbers were transposed, so make sure you check your number to match the one above when calling to volunteer.

Long-term recovery
Teams are needed to go to all the areas hit by spring storms. Mission teams and VIM teams should contact to inquire about possible mission team assignments for long-term recovery. Baxter Springs, Beaver Crossing and Seward County, as well as Northeast Nebraska, will continue to need help long into the future. Congregations should supply basic information such as your church/congregation, contact person, number and ages of the people in your proposed team, special talents inherent in members of the team, in addition to your best time frames for volunteering. TruDee Little is on vacation this week so give Disaster Response a couple of weeks to get back with you regarding long-term mission team work.

Donate now
As always, if you can’t volunteer or don’t have the vacation time available to take off to volunteer, please know that your contributions to the Great Plains Disaster Response Fund (Advance 975) is an equally valued way to participate. Funds generated go to help individuals, families and communities rebuild. This is a general fund for all disasters so that there is latitude to send funds where they are needed most.

Contributions can be sent to the Great Plains Disaster Response Fund through the local church offering plate (with the number 975 in the memo line) or to the Great Plains Conference, c/o Topeka Office, P.O. Box 4187, Topeka, KS 66604. Contributions can also be made online.

To request funds
Those wanting to apply for disaster response grants should use the Great Plains request form on the website. Criteria for how to apply and the necessary forms are available on the website.

Pilger area saturated with volunteers – Wakefield, other areas, in need

All the volunteers in Pilger have been a welcome help in the early phases of disaster recovery. Other areas hit by storms and tornadoes have received less media attention and therefore are in need of disaster response volunteer support.

This map from shows the paths of the five tornadoes that hit Northeast Nebraska on June 16, 2014, as posted by the U.S. National Weather Service in Omaha?. Stanton, Wayne and Dixon counties were all affected. At least 22 homes in Wayne County and 13 homes in Dixon county are among the 150 homes destroyed in the area.

At least 40 houses were destroyed in the rural area around Wakefield where volunteers are desperately needed for disaster recovery. Yesterday only eight volunteers checked in at Wakefield, while Pilger had 1,800 volunteers Wednesday and Thursday.

On June 16, a tornado went straight down 585th Avenue (near 854th Road, in Wayne County) and hit homes on both sides of the road. On the map it’s where the F4 tornado hit. Those homes are flattened and completely blown apart. That may be the area shown in this video posted by the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency?.

Volunteers for disaster recovery efforts are needed in all locations outside of Pilger which has been saturated with volunteers. Volunteers are asked to gather supplies, gear up appropriately, and check in at the Wakefield Fire Hall, at 405 Main St., in Wakefield, Neb., between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. daily, for intake and an assignment.

Volunteers have to be at least 19 years old. High school students can help with sorting donations. Volunteers who have equipment or can offer specialized skills, such as chainsaw and heavy equipment operation, or with trucks and trailers to haul debris, are asked to call the hotline at 402-287-2574, for job assignments. Homeowners with recovery needs can call the hotline with volunteer requests.

People with supplies to donate should also call the hotline at 402-287-2574, in order for donations to be coordinated with the needs. Some volunteers are needed to answer the hotline and to serve or deliver meals to the clean-up sites. Also snack items are needed to send out in the field to families and volunteers. Those items will be accepted daily at the Wakefield Fire Hall, at 405 Main St., in Wakefield.

This photo is from the front stoop looking into the basement of a home in Wayne County at the intersection of 585th Avenue and at the 854th Road. Nothing above ground is left at this site. As you can see from the photo, the basement is full of debris, including a tree. The family was not home when the Wakefield team stopped by, but one of the debris piles had a car seat and the team could see some broken toys.

The Great Plains Disaster Response team is working with Team Rubicon, a disaster relief organization currently set up at the volunteer center in Wakefield to handle intake, assess needs and to assist homeowners. Read about their efforts here.

The Great Plains Conference hot food trailer has been requested in Wakefield to feed lunch and dinner to 500 people starting Saturday and continuing through next Friday. The Red Cross will provide the food while Great Plains United Methodists provide the workers, trailer, etc. The trailer will be set up at the Salem Lutheran Church, 411 Winter St., Wakefield, Neb., where one couple has been feeding people since Tuesday. They are thrilled to have the Great Plains Conference team step in.

Most of this report came from Wayne County Council President Jill Brodersen, with additions from Great Plains Disaster Response Coordinator Linda Stewart.

RV helps team organize efforts

Delmer Neubauer generously offered his RV as a temporary office for the Great Plains disaster response team. In this photo (right) Mr. Neubauer, father of the Rev. Marvin Neubauer, stands with Steve Burnett, chair of the disaster response team.

Volunteers arriving along with more storms

Another round of storms and tornadoes hit Tuesday night 25 miles north of Pilger doing isolated damage to rural areas, but missing the town of Coleridge. More bad weather is predicted for Wednesday night. The Wayne UMC’s basement has provided shelter for many as these storms go through.

Great Plains Disaster Response Coordinator Linda Stewart reported while traveling to Pilger this morning that there are 12 people now doing pastoral care and intake – walking the community and connecting with home and business owners to help assess needs. The 12 make up one of the early response groups with feet on the ground. The group will be coordinating their efforts with disaster response organizations World Renew, Team Rubicon and others. The Great Plains Disaster Response team has been loaned an RV for their office, parked across from the emergency operations center.

Training 8:30 a.m. Thursday

Those wanting to volunteer through the Great Plains Conference must be trained for their own protection. A “mini” early responder training will start at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday at Wayne UMC, 516 Main Street, Wayne, Neb. Anyone wishing to volunteer should email The team needs to know what groups are coming, how many are in each group and how long each group plans to stay. Following the morning training, Great Plains volunteers will head to Pilger as a group.

Individual volunteers not participating in the training should report to the Wisner, Neb., high school for intake information on volunteering and for a work assignment.

Stewart offers these answers to frequently asked questions:

  • I have gloves and closed-toed shoes. Why do I need to be trained?
Early response training is necessary to ensure the safest practices in the midst of broken glass and every kind of imaginable debris. Training also helps with interaction skills so that those working with storm victims can manage conversations and interactions and where to direct victims for additional help and counseling. United Methodists are concerned about the welfare of those who come to serve in disaster recovery as well as the victims of the disaster.
  • It’s summertime and I have a youth group begging to come and help.
Youth are not included in disaster recovery because of safety issues. Additionally, youth are not prepared with the maturity to deal with the mental anguish of victims and their families. Again, sites are full of dangerous situations and debris. United Methodists are eager for youth to be involved in recovery, but in later phases. For example, Stewart said an ambulance was leaving Pilger this morning which means either they found another victim or someone doing disaster recovery was harmed.
  • I want to help, but I don’t know how to engage.

Keep in mind the area will need help in recovery far after the initial stages of clean-up. Churches should be thinking about engaging members in work groups that will help in later phases of recovery. Groups interested in long-term recovery should contact TruDee Little at or

Pictures posted, plans being made

Great Plains Conference Disaster Response Coordinator Linda Stewart sent photos following the walking tour of downtown Pilger, Neb., with Governor Dave Heineman. The devastation to the downtown area is significant, as shown.

Stewart along with Great Plains UM Disaster Response Team Chairperson Steve Burnett met this morning with Prairie Rivers District Superintendent Lance Clay, incoming Elkhorn Valley District Superintendent Marvin Neubauer, and pastors from nearby United Methodist churches to coordinate efforts. Tool and ERT trailers are coming to Pilger from Beaver Springs, Neb. and temporary office space has been set up in an RV.

Reportedly many livestock have either been killed or will need to be put down in the area. The mother of the deceased 5-year-old girl is in the hospital, critically wounded. Another person was killed in a vehicle.

Red Cross has established a shelter in Wisner, Neb., and the Salvation Army is feeding everyone. Emergency management has control of the site, and the incidence commander plans to conduct a debriefing later today.

Information for volunteers is below. A Facebook page dedicated to this particular disaster response effort will have regular updates at as well as the Great Plains' Twitter account, @GPUMC.

Volunteers needed for early response

Early Response Team trained volunteers for Wednesday, June 18, can show up at Wayne UMC at 516 Main Street in Wayne, Neb., no later than 7:30 a.m. to receive some refresher training before the group will head to Pilger.

Volunteers need to come with their own water, lunch, gloves, eye protection, sunscreen, sleeping bag & tools. Please bring rakes, tools, and anything else you have on hand that are needed for early response.

Volunteers who have not previously been trained or who cannot arrive tomorrow are invited to come Thursday, June 19, at 8:30 a.m. for a "mini" ERT training at the First UMC in Wayne. This critical training is for the protection of the volunteers and to ensure their efforts are as effective as possible. Volunteers should be at least 19 years old.

There are no fees for this training but there will be no certification. If you are able to help, please send an email to that includes your name, your church, how many will be in your group, and how long you intend to stay and help.

Tornadoes hit Stanton County

Please keep the people of Stanton County and in particular, the people of Pilger, Neb., in your prayers. One person lost their life due to Monday afternoon’s tornadoes.

Great Plains United Methodist Conference Disaster Response Coordinator Linda Stewart is traveling to Stanton County, Neb., to take part in the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency’s (NEMA) area meeting of Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD). Great Plains UM disaster response and United Methodist Committee on Relief are both VOAD organizations. VOAD works to bring all disaster response groups together to best meet the needs of affected areas.

Monday’s mid-afternoon tornadoes swept through Stanton County hitting Pilger and surrounding areas with devastation. Six NEMA employees will be on location early Tuesday morning along with about 20 National Guardsmen according to KOLN TV, out of Lincoln, Neb., to begin to assess the damage.

Governor Dave Heineman is also expected to survey the area around 10:30 a.m.

Stewart invites early responders to be ready to go on a moments notice. She intends on providing an update as soon as the coordinated effort begins.

Already anticipating the need to accommodate work teams, Stewart asks that volunteers and churches able to provide showers and other work-team support in nearby towns contact or call 800-745-2350 and ask for TruDee Little.

Great Plains UM Disaster Response Team Chairperson Steve Burnett is also en route to Pilger and Stanton County, in order to attend the VOAD meeting and to help organize the Great Plains United Methodist Response to the disaster.

Help by giving

United Methodists wanting to help can do so through your local church offering plate to the conference disaster response fund, with the number 975 in the memo line, or donate online. Funds are used to help in times of disaster across the Great Plains Conference.

GPconnect will continue to offer updates and information on ways for United Methodists to engage in disaster response.

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