LINCOLN, NE (February 23, 2022) – President Biden has approved Governor Pete Ricketts’ request for a federal disaster declaration to help repair damage from the thunderstorms, high winds, and tornadoes that struck Nebraska on December 15, 2021. The storm system downed powerlines, broke tree limbs, damaged small structures and agricultural equipment, and caused power outages.
After the storms, a National Weather Service investigation determined that 45 separate tornadoes swept through the area that day.
The Governor’s letter requesting the federal disaster declaration detailed the extensive damages caused by the storm. “The cities of Beatrice, Bradshaw, Columbus, Fairbury, Geneva, Guide Rock, Syracuse, Tecumseh, Red Cloud, and Wymore all experienced damage to the city electrical distribution infrastructure and/or excessive debris issues,” the Governor wrote. “Farmers Mutual of Nebraska, the state’s largest farm insurer, claims the storm will be one of the largest losses caused by a December storm in over 130 years, with over 4,000 claims and losses topping $30 million.”
The federal disaster declaration authorizes public assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for Adams, Buffalo, Burt, Cass, Cuming, Fillmore, Gage, Hamilton, Harlan, Jefferson, Johnson, Kearney, Nemaha, Nuckolls, Otoe, Pawnee, Platte, Polk, Richardson, Saline, Sarpy, Saunders, Thayer, Washington, and Webster counties. Communities are eligible to apply for assistance for “emergency work and the repair or replacement of disaster-damaged facilities.” Private property damages from the storm did not meet the threshold to trigger a request for individual assistance from FEMA.
The federal disaster declaration also makes funds available through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. These federal funds, available anywhere in Nebraska, can help to share the costs of public projects undertaken to decrease the risk of future damages from natural disasters.