May 27, 2019 (UPI) — Six people are dead in Oklahoma after destructive weekend tornadoes, officials said.
Two fatalities were confirmed after an EF-3 level tornado tore through the town of El Reno on Saturday night, leveling a mobile home park and destroying a hotel.
An unknown number of people remain missing in El Reno, a town of about 19,000 near Oklahoma City. Officials are traveling from door to door in a search and rescue mission.
“It’s a lot of devastation here. It’s leveled, it’s just devastated,” said Mayor Matt White of a hotel and mobile home park near the Highway 81 and Interstate 44 interchange, which sustained the most damage. At least 30 people were believed to be in the adjacent hotel, which lost most of its second story, when the tornado struck.
A hotel spokesman said that all guests have been accounted, adding that one employee sustained a broken leg.
The mobile home park had 88 residences, with 16 directly impacted by the tornado, whose EF-3 classification indicates maximum wind speeds of 160 mph.
A total of 29 people in El Reno were hospitalized with minor to critical injuries. Sixteen of the injured were transported in ambulances and 13 were taken in private vehicles.
The two who died in El Reno remain unidentified. Two others died in nearby Maynes County, and one each in Payne and Stephens Counties, officials said, as tornadoes, severe storms and flooding struck central Oklahoma. More than 170 tornadoes, of varying strengths, struck the Midwest, and Oklahoma hospitals reported at least 92 injuries.
The mayor urged people to use the city’s social media pages and non-emergency lines to get information so that 911 lines would not be tied up.
“Our community is very resilient to this,” White said. “We ask you to pray for us, pray for the first responders … the main thing is we have to stick together. I know people want to help. We want your help.”
On May 31, 2013, El Reno was struck by the widest tornado on record. That tornado killed eight people and injured 151 others along its 16.2-mile path.
The same thunderstorm that blasted El Reno late Saturday swept into the Oklahoma City metro area, prompting a tornado warning for the downtown area. A possible tornado caused damage at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds in northwest portions of the city, according to News 9. Downed trees and power lines were also reported and a local restaurant suffered extensive roof damage.
Another tornado warning was issued for Broken Arrow, Jenks and Tulsa as the line of thunderstorms continued eastward. The National Weather Service stated that this thunderstorm had a confirmed large and extremely dangerous tornado and called it a “particularly dangerous situation.”
Tree damage was reported near Jenks. A tornado was also spotted near Oktaha early Sunday morning.As communities begin cleaning up in the wake of the tornadoes, more rounds of severe weather and flooding downpours are expected to slam the Midwest early this week.