OMAHA, Neb. A severe storm packing strong wind damaged the Qwest Center and forced hundreds of swimmers practicing for the U.S. Olympic trials to evacuate the pools Friday.
Officials at the 7-year-old arena near downtown Omaha closed the building for the rest of the night after the afternoon storm blew through to check the extent of the damage. Superstar Michael Phelps and hundreds of other swimmers were herded into the hallways of the arena after a tornado warning was issued.
Across the Missouri River in Council Bluffs, Iowa, police Sgt. Jason Bailey said two people died when a tree fell on the car they were in. Another person was injured, but not severely, he said.
Damage to the Qwest Center appeared to be repairable and likely wouldn't halt the eight-day swim trials, set to begin Sunday, according to Al Berndt, assistant director of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency.
Arena televisions were tuned to local stations showing a swath of red, orange and yellow on the radar. Swimmers, coaches and meet workers milled about chatting. Some crowded close to an outside door with a narrow window that revealed the chaos outside furious wind, rain and debris scattering through the parking lot.
"I was going go check it out, but I figured I'd just sit down and rest," said two-time Olympian Erik Vendt.
Hail, heavy rain and wind of at least 50 mph tore through the city.