PILGER, NE – Members of the Pilger Planning Commission approved seven new zoning permits Tuesday. They were the first new structures to be green-lighted since the June 16 EF4 twister touched down.
Village clerk Kim Neiman said two of the structures are homes, including her own. A Farmers Co-Op request to rebuild its headquarters and several grain bins was approved by the Board.
Wednesday marks one month since the deadly tornado pummeled the community, killing one Pilger resident. Clean-up was well underway; a large area in the center of town lay mostly bare Tuesday night.
Philip Browne’s Pilger home was surrounded by empty lots. His windows were boarded up. The roof was patched. Browne said he was waiting on contractor estimates, but assumed his home will be torn down.
“I kind of waited it out to see if I could try and save my house a little bit,” Browne said. “The walls on the inside are a little bit twisted and cracked. Almost all the outside walls have a crack in them somewhere.”
His neighbor’s home was torn down and hauled away Monday. They plan to rebuild. Brown said he was moving to a place outside of the village.
“We're going to probably move outside of town and still be in Pilger,” said Browne. “We’ve got something left. There’s lot of stuff that's damaged in there, but we've still got our pictures and stuff like that.”
Not all of Browne’s neighbors can say that. Many of their homes were so badly damaged they were torn down just days after the tornado.
Neiman said the village population has been nearly cut in half this past month to just about 190 residents. Her family temporarily moved out of the community too.
“When I get here in the morning, it is so quiet. Just so, so, so, quiet,” Neiman said.
She hoped the new building plans by Pilger homeowners and businesses would spur confidence in others unsure if they should rebuild. Neiman conceded the process would likely be a slow one as plans to rebuild are slowed by National FEMA Flood Insurance guideline and mapping changes.
“Maybe we won't get some of the ones that used to live here,” she said, “But maybe we will get new ones.”
The community asks people to offer up their heavy machinery to haul debris.
Meanwhile, Neiman said Pilger Days, planned for the weekend of July 19, would go on as scheduled.