Remembering the Fury: Loomis woman reflects on the 1975 Omaha Tornado nearly 50 years later

Remembering the Fury: Loomis woman reflects on the 1975 Omaha Tornado nearly 50 years later
Photo: National Weather Service
May 2nd, 2024 | Alex Makovicka

Every year, tornado season leaves people across Nebraska and the Midwest with severely damaged or destroyed property, and consequently, it brings back memories for people who experienced tornado devastation in years past. 

One of those people is Kathy Rowell, formerly of Omaha and now of Loomis, whose house was severely damaged from the 1975 Omaha tornado. 

The 1975 Omaha tornado was a violent tornado that hit the metropolitan area. Data from the National Weather Service said it was the costliest and most powerful tornado out of 36 that touched down during the two-day outbreak in May.  

The one that hit the Rowells’ house was an F4 tornado.  

“We lived in Omaha, and that morning it was just really muggy out,” she said. “We dropped the kids off at the babysitter a block away from where we lived, and I went to Elkhorn to help get things ready for my grandmother’s funeral.” 

Later in the day, she remembers reports ramping up for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.  

“And from my parents’ house in Elkhorn, we could see the storm heading toward Omaha… And when they said that the tornado hit around the crossroads and in that area, that’s where our house was.” 

During this time, her husband Charlie was on the road trucking. He had called about the storm and could see it off in the distance. Then Kathy left Elkhorn and headed for the Omaha neighborhood. 

“All the treetops were gone. It was like someone had taken a buzz saw and just cut off the top two thirds of the trees. So, we knew that it had hit close to our home.” 

At this point, she said she headed for the babysitter to get her two children who were four and one at the time. Then they went around the block to head for home, or what was left of it. 

“When we got to the house, I remember seeing the house and shingles torn off – windows blown out, debris everywhere,” she said. “That’s actually the last memory I have of the tornado. Everything just kind of blacked out at his point.”  

Rowell said her two children were safe in the storm, but her son had night terrors in the years following. She estimated it took about 10 days to get back into their home. 

The 1975 Omaha tornado destroyed an estimated 4,000 to 5000 homes, causing upwards of $500 million in damage at the time, according to the National Weather Service.  In addition, it took 3 lives and injured about 300 people. 

May of 2025 will mark the 50th anniversary of the 1975 Omaha tornado. 


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