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Storms cause extensive damage to parts of Nebraska

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The storms that rolled across Nebraska on Thursday left behind some significant damage.

In Burwell, high winds blew through the Garfield County Fairgrounds, severely damaging the grandstands, according to a Facebook post from Nebraska's Big Rodeo.

storm damage

High winds caused damage to the Garfield County Fairgrounds in Burwell.

"80+ mph winds, hail and heavy rain blew the roof off our North grandstands and there is debris strewn all over the northern area of the grounds," the post said.

Pictures accompanying the post showed the damage to the grandstand as well as roofs torn off buildings and debris scattered on the ground.

No one could be reached at the office of Nebraska's Big Rodeo, which is held in July at the fairgrounds. Local emergency management personnel also were unavailable Friday morning.

Though no tornadoes were reported in Nebraska, some areas of the state saw wind gusts of more than 80 mph, including Valley County, where a gust of 89 mph was reported near Ord.

Reports submitted to the National Weather Service showed there was damage to trees, power poles and homes and buildings in numerous areas including Lexington, Ord and Niobrara. There also were reports of semi-tractor trailers and other vehicles being blown off of roads or toppled.

Some areas also saw large hail, with the weather service's Omaha office receiving a report of 2.5-inch diameter hail in DeWitt.

The weather service said most of the damage occurred north of Interstate 80, although wind gusts of more than 50 mph in Lincoln caused brief power outages for nearly 4,000 customers. All power had been restored by Friday morning.

The weather service said Thursday's storms met the definition of a derecho, which is a long-lived windstorm that produces thunderstorms as it moves across a wide area. There were at least 55 reports of wind gusts of at least 75 mph across Nebraska, the second most in a single day since 2004. The only storm to produce more was the Dec. 15 derecho that spun up a dozen tornadoes in Nebraska.

The storms on Thursday also produced large walls of dust, known as "haboobs," in some areas of western and central Nebraska.

A haboob occurs when dust is kicked up shortly before a thunderstorm moves in. A downdraft of cold air reaches the ground and kicks up dust, creating a dust wall that moves quickly and turns the sky pitch-black, according to Jordan Thies, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Hastings.

"If conditions are dry enough and winds are strong enough, it can make for a pretty ominous sight," Thies said.

Western Nebraska — which is in the grip of severe drought — was most impacted by the dust storm. Parts of South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota were also clouded in dust as severe thunderstorms rolled through the region.

The Omaha World-Herald contributed to this story.

Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.

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