Pilger, Nebraska: The town too tough to die

A look at several town landmarks damaged in the deadly tornado that hit Pilger, Nebraska, one year ago today.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Pilger is still on the map. Rare twin tornadoes — one rated EF4 and the other EF2 — barreled through the northeast Nebraska town a year ago today. The storm killed two people, injured 20 more and forever changed the lives of the nearly 350 people who called Pilger home. The number of residents today has dropped below 200, but those who remain are committed to rebuilding their lives and their homes. After all, Pilger has long been known as the town “too tough to die.” Some construction is complete and more is underway. But empty lots dot the landscape; some sites may never be rebuilt.

Aerial photo of Pilger on June 17, 2015, the day after the tornado.

Aerial photo of Pilger on June 12, 2015.

Pilger's changed landscape

Pilger is visibly different from a year ago, when dozens of homes and commercial buildings, along with the middle school and a church, were destroyed, still others were damaged, and downed trees and debris covered almost every part of the community. Only four of Pilger’s
20 businesses are back in operation. Ground was broken Friday for a new Midwest Bank building. Plans are in the works for a new community/senior center. And while the Village Cafe owners aren’t rebuilding, talks are in the early stages for a new restaurant with new owners.

Counterclockwise from top left: Pilger post office in May 2014, June 2014 after the tornado and June 2015.

Pilger Public Library

The library sustained minimal damage compared with other buildings on Main Street — the demolished post office and bank sat directly across the street, and the Farmers Cooperative and bins were hit hard on nearby First Street. Debris whipped up by the winds roughed up the exterior of the library, but the worst of the damage was to its roof. Repairs were completed in time for the library to reopen before Christmas.

Counterclockwise from top left: Pilger library in May 2014, June 2014 after the tornado and June 2015.

Main and First Streets

The frame of the “Pilger Happenings” sign remains outside the Farmers Cooperative, on First Street at the intersection with Main. The business is not yet fully operational at the Pilger location. Seven of the 16 grain bins that were destroyed, as well as the business office, have been rebuilt, and work is underway on the dry fertilizer shed and chemical and seed warehouse.

The "Pilger Happenings" sign in May 2014, June 2014 after the tornado and June 2015.

More Pilger coverage

  • Pilger town damage map

  • Aerial photos after the tornado

  • Before-after photos (2014)

  • Stories and archive coverage

  • Pilger tornado photo gallery
  • Videos from Pilger

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