By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
EL RENO – Emergency crews worked through the night and clean-up crews were out early Sunday after a deadly EF-3 tornado ripped through southeast El Reno and caused what the city’s mayor called “very traumatic” storm damage.
Tim Solis, 54, and Bridget Brockwell, 47, were killed Saturday night at a mobile home park.
Another 29 people were taken by ambulance and private vehicle to area hospitals for treatment after sustaining injuries ranging from minor to serious, according to El Reno Mayor Matt White.
The tornado touched down in El Reno about 10:30 p.m. Saturday and lasted four minutes.
Department of Transportation contractors and El Reno city personnel on Sunday morning were cleaning up a debris field along Highway 81 between Interstate 40 and Highway 66.
“It will be a clean-up process for quite a while, I would imagine,” Canadian County Commission Chairman Dave Anderson said Sunday afternoon. “It was an intense night, no doubt about it.”
Several businesses sustained extensive damage when the twister touched down, most notably an auto dealership, hotel and mobile home park.
First responders had to extricate people from American Budget Value Inn, which had almost the entire second floor blown off. Reports indicate more than 30 people were staying in that hotel; all had been accounted for Sunday morning.
The nearby Skyview Estates mobile home park also sustained serious damage, with the twister ripping several units from their foundations. Mayor White described the scene as “horrific” as search-and-rescue efforts were underway at the trailer park and other impacted areas.
“It’s a tragic scene out there,” White said. “People have lost everything.”
Most of the trailer units were spared, but residents were initially inconvenienced when they were unable to get back in their homes and vehicles.
“The roads in and out of there are impassable,” County Commission Chair Anderson said.
Residents of the mobile home park were evacuated to the VFW in El Reno.
‘SERIOUS, SERIOUS EVENT’
The tornado also tore through buildings, including the showroom, while smashing many vehicles on the Frontier auto dealership lot. Several light poles crashed down on vehicles.
The Diffee and Rick Jones dealerships also reported damage.
Oklahoma Gas & Electric crews were out Sunday installing new utility poles to replace those blown over Saturday night.
The National Weather Service rated the El Reno tornado an EF3 after a survey Sunday. NWS radar detected debris lofted up to 7,000 feet.
The tornado was on the ground for 2.2 miles and was 75 miles wide at its widest point, according to the NWS.
“It’s been a serious, serious event here,” White said at a Sunday morning news conference. “We have all hands on deck.”
El Reno’s mayor asked people to pray for his city after what its residents and businesses have been through.
After search and rescue efforts concluded Sunday, Anderson asked Canadian County residents to “stay away” from the tornado impact site to allow emergency personnel to perform the recovery operation.
Anderson did encourage citizens to donate to the American Red Cross to support rescue and recovery workers and tornado victims.
“The county has taken a support role; the most helpful thing we were able to do was help (the City of El Reno) with traffic control shortly after the incident last night,” the county chairman said Sunday afternoon.
“Our emergency manager has been on site since last night about 10:30 and he just now left and went home. He’s been organizing our resources to help them. We had some heavy equipment over there for them. We’ve just tried to be there as a resource and a help if they needed it.”
A GoFundMe site, the City of El Reno Tornado Relief Fund, has been established to help affected families.
Anderson said he was impressed with the quick response of first responders from about 10 agencies that came to help the El Reno police and fire departments deal with the destructive tornado.