A strong area of low pressure developed over northwest Kansas on Wednesday, May 11th 2005. From this low pressure center, a warm front stretched into southern Nebraska. An upper level disturbance, in combination with very strong jet stream winds aloft, moved into south central Nebraska and north central Kansas during the afternoon of May 11th, 2005. Very strong thunderstorms developed as a result over south central Nebraska.
The first storms developed around Minden near 300 PM with the storms developing rapidly thereafter. One very strong storm developed in northern Webster county, south of Hastings and began rotating. The storm continued to move northeast into the city of Hastings. A few funnel clouds were reported with this storm, but the main problem was the 2 to 3 inch diameter hail that pounded the community. There was widespread reported of damage to windows, siding, roofs, and vehicles in town. With the severe storms remaining over parts of Adams county from 400 to 700 pm, prodigious amounts of rain fell. Heavy rains continued, through the night from eastern Dawson county into York county with many areas picking up over 5 inches of rain. Unofficial reports from the Kenesaw and Wood River areas reported over 11 inches, nearly 10 inches around Grand Island, nearly 9 inches was reported around Hastings and 8 inches in the Central City area. Flooding of roads and fields was reported in these areas.
The following is a brief recap of storm damage and rainfall amounts that occurred from the severe weather event of May 11th, 2005:
Thunderstorms ravaged a large part of south-central Nebraska with hail, high winds, catastrophic flooding and a tornado. During the evening and early morning hours, 4 to 12 inches of rain fell from Dawson county to York County. The towns of Kenesaw and Wood River measured over 11 inches of rain. The city of Grand Island saw a record breaking 7.21 inches of rain. Many areas saw flooding with the most significant occurring in Wood River where the business district and most of the residential areas sustained flood damage. Three miles of roads were washed out in Kearney county and 15 miles of roads and 10 bridges were damaged in Merrick county. Emergency rescues of stranded people were conducted in York county, one by helicopter and another by air boat. Flood damage was in the tens of millions of dollars and was estimated to be from 12 to 15 million dollars in Hall county alone.
Large hail, strong winds and a tornado also pounded the region. Hastings was particularly hard hit as baseball size hail and high winds belted the city for about 20 minutes. Literally, thousands of vehicles and homes sustained damage, especially on the east side of town, including the downtown business district. Damage was estimated at 40 million dollars and over 30 people left their homes for shelters provided by the city. A tornado clipped the south side of Wood River causing damage to a house there. Strong winds were responsible for derailing a train in Merrick county, bringing down a radio station tower and another communications tower, many center pivot irrigation systems, and causing widespread power outages in rural areas. Both Hall and Adams counties were declared Federal Disaster Areas.
A year later, the community of Hastings and nearby towns have seen many building improvements due to the new roofs and siding replaced on many older homes. This storm that reaped havoc on Hastings, and caused catastrophic flooding in Grand Island, Wood River and Kenesaw, has increased community awareness about severe weather and safety precautions that need to be taken in the event of severe or hazardous weather. Preparedness has ramped up as a direct result of the damaging storms of May 11th, 2005.
Breezy and cool conditions for May 11th, 2006 will be far different from the weather experienced one year ago. Stories will be told and retold for generations about the events of May 11th, 2005.
Composed by Steve Carmel and Michael Montefusco