Debris piles high in Pilger, but weather keeps it from moving out
PILGER, NE (KTIV) -
Reduced to rubble, the town of Pilger, Nebraska faces the daunting task of removing the homes and businesses that were destroyed in an E-4 tornado.
Thousands of volunteers have flooded into Pilger the last two weeks to help remove debris, where 75% of the town was destroyed.
"We had 60 residences that were totally destroyed. All of our Main Street businesses were taken out, including the village office and the village fire hall,” said Kim Neiman, the Pilger Village Clerk.
In an empty city lot, debris is piling up: brick from downtown buildings, steel, concrete, and trees, lots and lots of trees. Stores, businesses, and city offices, practically the whole town now sits in piles.
“That's Pilger back there. Those are houses. My house is in there. I mean, everybody's house. My neighbor's house, my next door neighbor. The one across the street. The one down the street, the one two streets over,” said Neiman, pointing to a tall pile of plywood and other debris.
Neiman says 60% of the debris has now been removed, to this lot. But, the rainy weather is now hampering efforts to get the rest of the damage out of town.
"Our clean-up is just down to a crawl. It's down to a truckload at a time with four people, three people doing the work,” said volunteer coordinator AJ Kluthe.
"Pilger is flat, and three quarters of the town is in a flood plain,” pointed out Neiman.
They're in a holding pattern. The heavy equipment they need to use to finish the job sits idle.
A tractor scrapes off the mud to make the ground dry faster. Once that happens, the rest of the debris will be removed from town, and hauled away from here.
A job they're anxious to finish, so they can move forward and start rebuilding.
"That part will never come back, but it's going to come back newer and better,” added Neiman.
While most of the debris will end up in the landfill, the steel is compressed and recycled, with money being returned to a fund to help Pilger's tornado victims.
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