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1980 tornadoes' wake: By the numbers

By Eyde Olson
The Independent

Numbers sometimes tell a story better than words can. And the seven tornadoes that tore through Grand Island 13 years ago generated a lot of figures.

The seven tornadoes struck homes and businesses in the north, southeast and northwest areas of the city with winds of more than 200 mph. One tornado with winds up to 206 miles an hour hit the Veterans Administration Hospital but the building received minimal damage.

The almost three-hour attack that began about 8:30 p.m. June 3, left five people dead and about 200 injured. Some 475 homes and 49 businesses were destroyed. Property damage estimates of the storm that affected more than 150 city blocks ranged from nearly $116 million to $300 million.

By Thursday morning, St. Francis Medical Center had treated and released 148 people while Lutheran Hospital had treated 118.

According to the American Red Cross, the 475 destroyed homes included 357 single-family homes, 33 mobile homes and 85 apartments. Even more homes were damaged. There were 440 homes, 24 mobile homes and 34 apartment units with major damage. Another 1,194 homes, 241 mobile homes and 190 apartments sustained minor damage.

Along with the 49 destroyed business units, 23 businesses sustained major damage and another 35 minor.

A week after the tornadoes, 2,323 victims had visited federal disaster centers and 820 applications for housing assistance had been received. A total of 1,159 applications for home and personal loans, 131 for business loans and 1,025 applications for the federal government's individual and family grant programs also had been received.

Damage in Hall and Hamilton counties was more than $5 million. Estimates of city utility damage was $3.5 million.

In 1979, building permits for Grand Island totaled $35.955 million. That number increased 30 percent in 1980 when the value of all building permits jumped to more than $46 million.