Lost shingles, ripped gutters and shattered windows. Words to describe pure destruction. Words to describe Cedar County Farm Bureau member Jason Kvols’ farm near Laurel after an EF3 tornado roared through. In the late afternoon hours of June 17, the day after a deadly tornado barreled through Pilger, Nebraska, a storm developed over the Laurel, Coleridge area in Northeast Nebraska, dropping multiple, slow moving tornados.
"Typically you think after 15 or 20 minutes the tornado has passed and you can go, but this storm lasted three hours,” Jason Kvols said, July 17. “It just kept staying around Laurel and that’s where I live.”
Jason and his wife, Kathy, were forced to watch the storm from Jackson, Nebraska, about half an hour away, while their young daughters rode it out with his parents.
“It was very stressful and emotional just not knowing,” Kvols said.
He kept calling his parents and neighbors every five minutes that night. Sometimes the line would be busy. At one point, the area lost power. But when the calls finally went through, relief. Everyone was safe.
“It was just reassuring to hear my father’s voice,” Kvols said.
Ten miles away Cedar County Farm Bureau members Jim and Jan Miller watched on television as a mile wide tornado grinded land they farm for nearly an hour.
“It was a slow moving twister, that’s why it got so wide,” Jan Miller said. “We were sure it was hitting Coleridge.”
Of more concern was the safety of their son, Jason. Luckily, he wasn’t home when the tornado passed just a mile from his house near Coleridge.
According to the National Weather Service, the storm system carved a 17 mile path across Cedar County and into the edge of Dixon County. It began just before 8:00 p.m. and subsided at about 11:30 p.m., with at least half a dozen tornados reported.
With first light on a new day came the first images of damage. On the land the Millers farm, 500 acres of corn and soybeans and five center pivots lost to a monster. In place of the crops, soil littered with debris. For everyone affected by the storm, it’s difficult to find a place to start. That’s when friends, neighbors and perfect strangers stepped in.
“It was just amazing the support we got from the community right away,” Miller said. “We had volunteers walking fields. The community center was open with water available and people making food. It made it more bearable when you have that support.”
Miller said her family and volunteers worked until eight or nine in the evening everyday picking scrap metal, tree limbs and other debris out of their fields, while at the same time maintaining their regular pork production duties. Through all this, replanting was never a question. The Millers replaced the lost crops with a new batch of soybeans.
“You have to replant. You have to keep the soil free of weeds anyway and this gives you a chance at a yield,” Miller said. “Luckily we’ve had rain. We won’t get the yield we were lined up to get, but hopefully we will get something.”
She is thankful the tornado hit just a portion of the land her family farms, but her heart went out for her neighbors, like the Kvols, who dealt with worse.
“Crop loss is a lot of money and a lot of potential gone, but we are not trying to rebuild an entire farm,” Miller said. “Just because the tornado hit in a rural area doesn’t mean it didn’t affect a lot of people.”
The Kvols’ lost a two story barn filled with personal items, three grain bins were destroyed and their home was badly damaged both inside and out.”
Thankfully, none of Jason’s livestock were harmed during the storm. He said part of a roof ended up in the horse coral, but the horses were not injured. His cattle were kept at his parent’s farm just down the road, but he said miraculously they made it out of the storm without a scratch. The fields were another matter.
“Every piece of equipment was damaged. My planter and my tractor were damaged,” he said. “I’m not able to replant. So whatever yields is what it is and then crop insurance kicks in.”
Again, the community stepped up.
“We were overwhelmed with the devastation,” Kvols said. “We had friends and family help clean-up. The community was just phenomenal with outreach. I don’t know how to thank everyone for the support they showed. It was a tremendous outpouring of help.”
Just two weeks after the storm, Jason and Kathy welcomed a new family member, a baby girl, Amelia Anne. Fortunately a friend, Mary Christensen, opened up her home to Jason’s family until they can finish cleaning and repairing their house.
“It will be a process and a time of reflection,” he said. “But you keep moving forward and moving on. The support is there and you do what you have to do.”
How You Can Help!
If you would like to donate and help those who grow your food, send donations to:
NFB-Foundation For Agriculture
Attn: Tornado Reliefe Fund
P.O. Box 80299
Lincoln, NE 68501
or CLICK HERE to donate.