Tornadoes rake two Oklahoma cities, killing two

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 suburb of Tulsa more than 100 miles away, authorities said Sunday.

The first tornado touched down in El Reno, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) 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, 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 kilometers).

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 northeast of El Reno. Pete Snyder, a hydrometeorological technician with the weather service in Tulsa, said crews were assessing damage to determine the tornado’s rating. The area also experienced damage from strong straight-line winds, he said.

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 neighbor’s mobile home slam into hers before it flipped over and landed on her roof.

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 neighborhoods on Sunday to consider leaving for higher ground because the Arkansas River is stressing the city’s old levee system.

Downriver and about 100 miles southeast of Tulsa in Arkansas’ second-largest city, Fort Smith, residents were preparing for what meteorologists are predicting will be the worst flooding in recorded history.

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