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NORTH PLATTE, Neb. — Officials have updated to four the number of people injured by Sunday's tornadoes in Nebraska.
Cliff Cole, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in North Platte, said officials believe that three tornadoes struck the state Sunday night, two around North Platte and one near Valentine.
The tornado that hit North Platte has been rated, preliminarily, as an EF3 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. That means that winds reached 140 mph or greater, strong enough to destroy homes and mangle transmission lines.
The North Platte tornado was preceded by one just to the south at Lake Maloney. Cole said storm surveyors are still examining the damage, but it's believed the first tornado touched down at Lake Maloney and then lifted into the air before a second one dropped along the same storm track.
That tornado jumped Interstate 80 and hit Union Pacific Railroad's Bailey Yard, which is just west of North Platte.
Dan Guenthner, Lincoln County Emergency Management director, began to assess the damage around North Platte on Monday morning. He started at southern end of the storm's path, he said, and the damage got worse as he moved north.
Adam Hawley was at work at Bailey Yard when a tornado began to approach.
"We were driving along in the rain inspecting trains, doing what we always do, when it came on the radio that there was a tornado warning," Hawley said. "We hid up in the train. There was kind of a pause in the storm a little bit, it wasn't five minutes later that the unit started to shake a little bit. Then, someone said, 'I see it.' We went to the north windows and sure enough, lightning would flash and you could see that tornado clear as day."
Hawley and his co-workers watched and took pictures of the storm for approximately 20 minutes.
"After about 10 minutes on the ground, it pulled up, and then the cloud itself traveled north and looked like another tornado dropped down again north of Highway 30," Hawley said. "But at that point it was harder to see."
Monday morning, Lynn McCall and his family were cleaning up the remnants of a trailer full of items that was destroyed on property he owns southwest of North Platte.
"We've got a real mess," he said. "There was still a lot of their stuff stored in that trailer ...."
Family members were picking through the items Monday. McCall's daughter lives in a cluster of homes to the west, he said. Her home was untouched as was one he and his wife are remodeling.
McCall said the original farmhouse at the location was destroyed by a tornado in 1927, and a tornado in 1990 did little damage.
This report includes material from the World-Herald News Service.