Warren residence hit hard by tornado

Couple's homing pigeons find way back to property


What Karen and Greg Warren remember about the afternoon of April 26 is running down to the basement and holding onto each other amongst the roaring sounds of the tornado and the pitch black darkness.

"We tried to get our dogs and the dogs were fighting us to go downstairs," Karen said. "We got downstairs and it wasn't even 15, 20 seconds and it just hit us."

Popping, cracking and items hitting their home were sounds the Warrens remember hearing.

"It was like a war zone," Karen said. "Dirt started flying, and we thought, 'Oh, my God, our house is gone.'"

"We were just holding each other under the table and just praying," Greg said.

After the hit, the Warrens went upstairs to find their home completely destroyed and their pets nowhere to be found. All pets — two dogs and a cat — were located and safe.

"The cool thing about our house is it's held up by an actual tree in the basement," Karen said. "The main support is a tree. That's where we held on."

The Warrens, own their own pest control business headquartered in Lincoln, assumed the tornado that touched down in Lancaster County would be the only one.

"I was looking at the Storm-chasers and watching them pass my customers' houses," Karen said. "Meanwhile, we're oblivious to where it's at. We thought, 'Oh, it's passed us, we're good.' We did not expect it to come up this way."

Another element to the Warrens' home was their homing pigeon structure.

"We put a temporary thing up there for the pigeons, but I think they're starting to roost here," Greg said, noting the Warrens had recently finished their outdoor entertainment building just hours before the storm hit. A few pigeons have taken a liking to that now-destroyed area, Gary said.

Greg has been racing homing pigeons since he was 12.

"That's his passion and he flies with the Omaha Racing Pigeon Association and they do competitive racing and we hold a big race once a year, usually the end of September, early October," Karen said. "People send birds to us from all over the country to race on their behalf. It's a pretty big operation."

Karen said the former loft for the birds can hold up to 200 pigeons.

"A lot of them died in the tornado, but a lot of them, when it just blew apart, escaped," Greg said. "I don't know if they got pulled away with the tornado, but they were all coming back the next day. I've been trying to capture them, net a few."

As for rebuilding their home, the Warrens said they are hoping to stay on their property in an RV for the next few years.

"There's better things to come," Karen said. "It looks like devastation right now, but it will be beautiful again. We just have to think positive and know this is just one small thing. It's important that you have your life. In the end, it's just stuff."