Wednesday 26 June 2019

Two dead and dozens injured after tornado roars through Oklahoma town

A hotel was destroyed and trailers at a mobile home park were damaged.

Debris lies on the ground at a hotel after a deadly storm moved though a town in Oklahoma (Tim Talley/AP)
Debris lies on the ground at a hotel after a deadly storm moved though a town in Oklahoma (Tim Talley/AP)

By Tim Talley, Associated Press Reporter

At least two people have died and more than two dozen have been injured after a tornado destroyed a hotel and roared through a nearby mobile home park in Oklahoma.

The twister touched down in El Reno, about 25 miles west of Oklahoma City.

It hit the American Budget Value Inn before ripping through the Skyview Estates trailer park, flipping and levelling homes, according to mayor Matt White.

“It’s a tragic scene out there,” Mr White said. “People have absolutely lost everything.”

The two people who were killed were in the mobile home park, Mr White said.

Everyone at the hotel was accounted for, but searchers were still going through the mobile home park.

Some 29 people were injured. They were taken to hospital, where some were undergoing surgery, the mayor said.

Some of the injuries were deemed critical, he added.

National Weather Service meteorologist Rick Smith said the twister hit El Reno on Saturday night as a powerful storm system rolled through the state.

Experts are trying to determine the severity of the damage to the town located just west of Oklahoma City.

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Part of a roof collapsed at a hotel in Oklahoma (Tim Talley/AP)

Images from the scene showed emergency crews sifting through rubble after part of the hotel’s second storey collapsed into a pile of debris strewn about the first floor and car park.

Elsewhere, overturned cars and twisted metal could be seen briefly as intermittent lightning flashed across the sky and the wailing sirens of approaching emergency vehicles were heard in the distance.

Trailers at the Skyview Estates mobile home park adjacent to the hotel also were damaged, as was part of a nearby car dealership.

The storm in El Reno comes after a week of tornados, severe rain and flooding in the Southern Plains and Midwest, including a tornado that hit Jefferson City, Missouri.

The region’s most recent spate of bad weather and flooding has been blamed for at least nine deaths.

Tweety Garrison, 63, said that she was inside her mobile home – along with her husband, two young grandchildren and a family friend – when the storm hit.

Mrs Garrison said when she heard the storm coming she immediately hit the ground. Moments later she heard the mobile home next door slam into hers, before it flipped over and landed on her roof, she said.

Mrs Garrison said the incident lasted five to 10 minutes. She said there was a tornado warning on her phone but the sirens did not go off until after the tornado hit.

Mrs Garrison’s 32-year-old son, Elton, said he had heard the wailing tornado sirens and had just laid down at home about half a mile away when his phone rang.

He recognised his mother’s number, but there was no voice on the other end when he answered. “I thought, ‘That’s weird’,” he said.

Then his mother called back, and delivered a chilling message: “We’re trapped.”

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Workers look through tornado damage at the American Budget Value Inn in El Reno (Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman via AP)

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 immediately 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 nine and the other 12 … my main emotion was fear,” Mr Garrison said. “I couldn’t get them out of there quick enough.”

Mr Garrison said he was not alarmed by the warning sirens when he first heard them at home.

He said: “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 kinda got calm all of a sudden, that’s when it didn’t feel right.”

Later, a suspected tornado felled trees and power lines and heavily damaged some businesses in a suburb of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The apparent twister struck Sapulpa not long after the El Reno tornado.

Raymond Beck, who owns a memorabilia shop in Sapulpa, said he was in his store when the storm hit.

He said: “Stuff was flying everywhere. It sounded like a real high-pitched whistle to me. I knew I had to get away from the windows.”

Press Association

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