EL RENO, Okla. — A tornado
The first tornado touched down in El Reno, about 25 miles (40
"It's a tragic scene out there," White said, adding later that, "People have absolutely lost everything." He said the city established a GoFundMe site, the City of El Reno Tornado Relief Fund, for affected families. Several other businesses were also damaged, though not to the same extent as the motel.
The two people who were killed were in the mobile home park, White said. He did not provide additional details about them. The 29 people who were injured were taken to hospitals, where some were undergoing surgery. Some of the injuries were deemed critical, he said.
The National Weather Service gave the tornado an EF3 rating, meaning it had wind speeds of 136-165 mph (219-266 kph). Personnel who investigated the damage said the tornado began around 10:28 p.m. Saturday and lasted for four minutes. The tornado was about 75 yards wide at its widest point and was on the ground for 2.2 miles (3.5
The tornado was spawned by a powerful storm system that rolled through the state — the latest in a week of violent storms to hit the flood-weary Plains and Midwest that have been blamed for at least 11 deaths, including the two killed in El Reno.
Early Sunday, another tornado destroyed several buildings and downed trees and power lines in the Tulsa suburb of Sapulpa, which is 110 miles (177
The Sapulpa Police Department said on its Facebook page that it hadn't heard of any deaths and that only a few minor injuries had been reported.
Residents wandered around after sunrise to survey the damage, carefully avoiding fallen utility poles that blocked some streets. Among the buildings that were destroyed was a historic railroad building built in the early 1900s that the Farmers Feed Store had been using for storage. A furniture store's warehouse was also destroyed.
In El Reno, emergency crews sifted through the rubble at the trailer park and motel, where the second story collapsed into a pile of debris strewn about the first floor and parking lot.
Tweety Garrison, 63, told The Associated Press that she was in her mobile home with her husband, two young grandchildren and a family friend when she heard the storm coming and immediately hit the ground. Moments later, she heard her
Garrison said the incident lasted five to 10 minutes and that she received a tornado warning on her phone but the sirens didn't go off until after the twister hit.
Her 32-year-old son, Elton Garrison, said he heard the wailing tornado sirens and had just laid down at home about a half-mile (1
Then his mother called back, and delivered a chilling message: "We're trapped."
He said when he arrived at his parents' home, he found it blocked by debris and sitting with another trailer on top of it. He began clearing a path to the home so that he could eventually lift a portion of an outside wall just enough so that all five occupants could slip beneath it and escape.
"My parents were in there and two of my kids, one 9 and the other 12. ... My main emotion was fear," said Elton Garrison, who has lived in El Reno for about 26 years. "I couldn't get them out of there quick enough."
He said he wasn't alarmed by the warning sirens when he first heard them at home.
"We hear them all the time here, so it didn't seem like a big deal. ... I heard a lot of rain with the wind. But when it kind of got calm all of a sudden, that's when it didn't feel right."
He said his parents had only recently recovered after losing their previous home to a fire a few years ago.
"Now this," he said, before expressing gratitude that everyone inside his parents' home had emerged without serious injury.
In the next breath, he added: "Items can be replaced. Lives can't."
The storm is the latest to hit the flood-weary central U.S. and dumped yet more rain in the region's already bloated waterways. In Tulsa, authorities advised residents of some
Downriver and about 100 miles (161
Associated Press writers David Aguilar in Detroit and Jamie Stengle in Dallas contributed to this report.
Tim Talley And Sue Ogrocki, The Associated Press