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The Day After
Eggs sunny side up despite heavy destruction

By Mark Getzfred
Independent Staff Writer

Originally Published Wednesday, June 4, 1980

Patients at the Grand Island Veterans Administration Hospital had eggs for breakfast despite more than a million dollars damage the building sustained Tuesday night as a tornado swept across the city.

Marilyn Peterson, information coordinator at the hospital, said patients were served hot breakfast Wednesday morning because the hospital still had gas for the kitchen stoves.

The hospital and its grounds were damaged as the tornado touched down in northwest Grand Island. Much of the damage to the building was confined to broken windows and water, which in places was an inch deep on the floor.

Peterson said all patients were moved to lower floors Tuesday night from the third, fourth and fifth floors before the storm hit. No one was inured during the storm.

About 140 patients were in the hospital at the time. Some 42 of those patients were on the fifth floor in the nursing care center and had to be carried or taken by wheelchair to the basement by hospital staff, Peterson said.

Patient Phillip Lynch, 62, of Broken Bow said the patients were moved quickly and with little panic.

"I was playing Bingo and they sent everyone to the basement," Lynch said.

Lynch's roommate this morning, Tom Sanders, 62, of Hastings showed visitors his room. The air conditioner had been pulled out of the window and was hanging down. His bed was filled with glass and pushed against the broken window.

"This is my first one (tornado) and my last," Sanders said. During the evacuation to the basement, Sanders said he was thinking about nothing but keeping calm and moving quickly.

Much of the staff, which went on duty at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, stayed overnight to help with patient care and clean-up, Peterson said. The staff began cleaning up Wednesday morning. The hospital's surgical wing was extensively damaged with the ceiling pulled out in one portion of the wing.

"I would say there is not a window that hasn't been cracked," Phillips said.

Peterson said patients who require medical care are being transferred to veterans hospitals in Lincoln and Omaha. Other patients will be dismissed or given passes until things begin moving smoothly, she said.

In the meantime, the clean-up continues. Sandwiches and drinks are being provided for the staff and patients.

"We're just taking whatever we have to keep the meals going," Peterson said. "The big problem right now is water."

The hospital is using its distilled water supply for drinking water.