EL RENO, Okla. – A tornado leveled a motel and tore through a mobile home park near Oklahoma City overnight, killing two people and injuring at least 29 others before a second twister raked a Tulsa suburb more than 100 miles away.
The first tornado touched down in El Reno, about 25 miles west of Oklahoma City, late Saturday night. It crossed an interstate and walloped the American Budget Value Inn before ripping through the Skyview Estates trailer park, flipping and leveling homes, Mayor Matt White said at a news conference.
"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. Several other businesses were also damaged, though not to the extent as the motel.
The two people who were killed were in the mobile home park, White said. 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 to 165 mph. The tornado was about 75 yards wide at its widest point and was on the ground for 2.2 miles.
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, 110 miles northeast of El Reno. Pete Snyder, an NWS hydrometeorological technician in Tulsa, said crews were assessing damage to determine the tornado's rating. The area also experienced damage from strong straight-line winds.
The Sapulpa Police Department said 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 destroyed was a historic railroad building built in the early 1900s that the Farmers Feed Store had been using for storage.
In El Reno, emergency crews sifted through the rubble at the mobile home park and motel, where the second story collapsed into a pile of debris strewn about the first floor and parking lot.
Tweety Garrison, 63, said 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 neighbor's home slam into hers before it flipped and landed on her roof.