Standing Together F4EVER
During the afternoon of May 22, 2004, a long-trackF4 tornado formed during a tornado outbreak and tore through multiple counties in southeast Nebraska. The tornado damaged many towns along its path, but its most significant destructive effect occurred at the town of Hallam. The Hallam tornado is recognized by NOAA as the second-largest tornado on record, peaking at 2.5 miles (4.0 km) wide at Hallam, behind only the 2013 El Reno tornado.
The Hallam tornado formed west and northwest of Daykin at 7:30 pm CDT as at F1 intensity on the Fujita Scale. One satellite tornado, rated F1, formed and quickly dissipated northeast of town. The main storm turned and traveled east-northeast from Daykin to a point south-southeast of Western and then to about 2 miles (3.2 km) north of Swanton. During this time, the tornado fluctuated between an F0/1 and intensified. The only damage reported in the area was to farmhouses and silos.
The tornado remained confined within the F0-F1 range until it hit southern Wilber, where intensified to F2 and blew roofs off of structures. The tornado continued east-northeast, grazing the east side of Wilber as it moved towards Clatonia. Here it is estimated that the tornado reached F3 strength.
After passing just northwest of Clatonia, the tornado moved through Hallam at 8:35 pm CDT, where damage reached high-end F4 in intensity. At Hallam, the tornado was a record-breaking 2.5 miles (4.0 km) wide (the widest tornado ever recorded at the time). Most houses in Hallam were demolished, along with farming equipment and structures. A coal train was tossed off its tracks on the west side of town. Hallam escaped the most intense winds of the storm though, which were to the south.
East of Hallam, damage was rated F2-F3 as the tornado turned east and began to cycle. IIt decreased in size to about 1 mile (1.6 km) as it passed north of Cortland, where it turned northeast and passed 2 miles (3.2 km) north of Firth. Norris School District 160 suffered severe damage, with the middle school being hit the worst. The auditorium roof and other walls within the school caved in. Buses were tossed and homes northeast of the school were flattened.
At this point, the storm re-intensified, reaching F4 status. Damage continued northeast to Holland and to a point north-northwest of Panama. Here, tornado damage was light – F2 at best. The tornado then tracked north-northeast to Bennet, where some houses received F3 damage. At Bennet, the twister turned east-northeast and began to thin out. Damage east-northeast of Bennet was in the F0-F1 range. The tornado finally dissipated a mile west-southwest of Palmyra at 9:10 pm Central Daylight Time.
The storm was long-lived, having been on the ground for more than 100 minutes. It was also a long-track tornado, having covered 52 miles (84 km). Even though it damaged towns and demolished many buildings, there were no damage-cost estimates available. The Hallam tornado became the widest on record until it was barely surpassed on May 31, 2013 by the El Reno, Oklahoma tornado, which had a width of 2.6 miles (4.2 km).