Local News

Early May tornado hits rural Davenport farm

As calendar pages were turned to the month of May last week, hot, humid weather conditions made it feel more like July. With temperatures hovering around 90 degrees, dew points rose to 68 degrees as warm, moist air marched up from the Gulf of Mexico. On Wednesday, May 2, weather alerts graced news casts all day long warning of the potential for severe weather after a cold front was discovered making its way from the north, and as is typical for Spring climes in Nebraska, the clashing point was set to be directly overhead.

Then, as the sun began to set, the two systems slammed into each other over Nuckolls County and began the ever familiar rotating dance where tornadoes are born.

At 9 p.m., Thayer County was placed in a tornado warning as spotters from Nuckolls County reported definite rotation and possibly a tail at Oak. Sirens wailed there as the storm passed over setting its sights on Davenport. Eight minutes later, spotters from that village reported a rain-wrapped funnel cloud passing just west of the area and Shickley spotters were immediately activated.

Sheriff David Lee, making his way to Davenport reported he thought he saw a transformer get hit just east of town, but couldn’t be sure with such severe lightning.

By 9:17, the rotating cloud had passed the area and Thayer County’s tornado warning had expired, although the National Weather Service said the area was still under a severe storm warning. The storm seemed to slow to a crawl hovering over the Thayer-Fillmore county border and by 10 p.m., spotters reported a very large funnel cloud in the area. From it descended an EF-1 twister on top of the Randy and Penny Williams farm in rural Davenport. The farmstead is on Road Y on the Fillmore County side, near Davenport.

The Williams’ were in their storm shelter, a concrete-lined room under the porch, Randy would report later. Neither were hurt, but their house, outbuildings, garage, and a grain bin suffered damage from the tornado.

Fillmore County Emergency Management director Donna Mainwaring said Thursday morning that NWS personnel confirmed the vortex and estimated wind speeds at about 105 m.p.h.

About two dozen people showed up the next morning to help the Williams fix the roof and repair siding on the house, board up gaping holes where window panes once stood and close up the garage where a back wall had been ripped out.

Boards, nails, shingles, and other debris from a destroyed farm building littered the yard and part of a large grain bin, which knocked out a transformer as it was blown across the yard, rested near the house. Outdoor furniture was found entwined in nearby trees.

Williams told reporters the next day he and his wife feel blessed to have made it through the storm unhurt.

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