Rebuilding from ground zero

Tornado-destroyed car dealership in El Reno to return in less than a year

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Kenneth Floyd of Yukon, general sales manager for the Frontier Auto Group, which includes Frontier Chevrolet, Dodge, Chrysler, Ram and Jeep, in El Reno, stands in front of remains of the Frontier Dodge building after the May 25, 2019 tornado that slammed into it. A new building is under construction to be completed in 10-months. (Photo by Robert Medley)

By Robert Medley
Managing Editor

EL RENO – The path of the deadly tornado is still visible on the north side of Interstate 40 where it tore across U.S. 81 on the night of Saturday, May, 25, 2019, and slammed into a car dealership’s building.

Car salesman Kenneth Floyd of Yukon was home when the EF-3 tornado hit El Reno shortly after 10 p.m. that night.

Floyd had been the new car manager for the Frontier Dodge, Chrysler, Ram and Jeep group from 1997 until 2003 in El Reno, and he worked for the dealership when the new showroom and building was completed on the southeast corner of U.S. 81 and State Highway 66 in 2001.

When he heard about the tornado on the news that night May, 2019, just two days before Memorial Day, he drove west from Yukon on SH 66 to El Reno to see if he could assist in the emergency situation. Luckily, no one had been at the Frontier dealership after hours, so there were no injuries there. But the tornado hit a hotel on the west of U.S. 81, and a trailer park and moved northeast across U.S. 81, then tore across the Frontier Dodge parking lot, then into the building.

Floyd walked across the remains of the building as work started on the new one this week, and remembered the night of the tornado.

“I was at home when it came across the news. I drove out here as soon as I heard about it. I’ve always enjoyed this place. The owners have always been good to me so I came out to see what was going on to see if I could help in any way,” Floyd said. “I really couldn’t really tell the damage coming down SH 66, but once I got around to the other side to where the tornado actually hit it, you could see it demolished the building.”

Over 100 Frontier vehicles were damaged or destroyed, and half of the building was blown away, he found as he drove up and stopped at the scene that night.

Two people were killed by the tornado that night in El Reno at the Skyview Mobile Home Park.

The remaining Frontier inventory was moved to another lot north of the existing Frontier Chevrolet dealership along SH 66. The Chevrolet showroom was not hit.

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Now, work has started to rebuild the tornado-destroyed Frontier building for Dodge, Chrysler, Ram and Jeep sales. Today, Floyd is the general sales manager for the Frontier dealership today.

“The good part about it all, and the exciting part is we are building a new store and I get to move down here again. So, it is like starting over,” Floyd said.

“It is going to be a little different because it is a new look for Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and ram. It is going to be kind of state-of-the-art.”

The entire Frontier Auto Group of El Reno has worked to recover from the tragedy, he said.
“Frontier has stood pretty strong and had enough help from the employees and the community to be able to clean everything up and start the process of rebuilding,” Floyd said.

“It took a little longer than we thought it would, but we are set now and are ready to move into the future.”

The new Frontier dealership building should be completed in 10-months. The building is located at the southeast corner of SH 66 and U.S. 81.

“The new building is going to automatically help us. It will be a new building with a new look” Floyd said. It will be near a new hospital building and the Canadian County Fairgrounds building, he said.

“It’s been a long process to get there to kind of rebound from the storm,” Floyd said.
“We’re excited about the new building and reinvesting in El Reno and the county,” Floyd said.