Strong storms cause power outages but bring needed rain

Severe thunderstorms late Friday and early Saturday brought much-needed rainfall but knocked out power for thousands, felled trees and scattered debris across the Omaha area.

Storms swept across central and eastern Nebraska into western Iowa, bringing 40 to 70 mph winds, up to quarter-size hail and 1 to 2 inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service.

At the peak of the storm around 2:30 a.m., roughly 8,650 customers lost power, according to the Omaha Public Power District. By Saturday evening, power had been restored to all but about 100 customers.

The City of Blair, just north of Omaha, has announced a citywide tree debris cleanup. Residents can leave tree limbs and other debris in the right of way for city employees to collect starting Monday morning.

John Madsen of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said wind gusts knocked down trees and power lines across the county, leaving some residents without power. Madsen said the damage was not out of the ordinary for a summer storm.

The storm dumped welcome rain on the Omaha area, which up through Friday had been 4 inches behind in yearly rainfall, said Dave Fobert of the weather service office in Valley.

Omaha’s Eppley Airfield received 1.42 inches of rain during the storm, the Blair airport 1.06 inches and Valley 1.62 inches.

“Last night was the first really heavy rain I think that actually went across the entire metro area this season,” Fobert said Saturday. He said previous rainfall has been spotty and left Omaha drier than usual.

A tornado was spotted just after 9 p.m. Friday south of Elyria, Nebraska, according to weather service reports. A second tornado touched down near Madison, Nebraska, around 10 p.m. and a third funnel cloud was seen at 10:36 p.m. in Poole, Nebraska. Fobert said he was unaware of any damage from the reported tornadoes.

Saturday afternoon, the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources asked residents of Thurston County to limit water usage for 12 hours. The storm caused a power outage in Pender, which supplies groundwater to residents through the Thurston County Rural County Water Supply System.

Storms cleared out of the area by Saturday morning. Sunday is expected to be dry and sunny with a high of 83.