EL RENO, Okla. — A destructive tornado struck the Oklahoma City suburb of El Reno late on Saturday, killing at least two people and demolishing a motel and destroying much of a trailer park and a car dealership just days after the town was hit by widespread flooding.
The brief tornado tore through El Reno, a largely rural suburb of nearly 17,000 people about 25 miles west of Oklahoma City, shortly before 11 p.m.
Matt White, the mayor of El Reno, said two people were killed during the tornado. Photos posted on social media by bystanders and reporters showed that parts of the motel, the American Budget Value Inn, appeared to be all but leveled. The mayor said the majority of the motel’s second story was “not there.”
Officials were uncertain how many guests had been staying at the motel. “We’re trying to run those numbers down now,” Mr. White said.
“It’s a pretty devastating sight at this point in time,” he told reporters at a news conference early Sunday morning, adding, “You’ll see how dramatic it is when the daylight shines on it.”
Tornado sirens began blaring at 10:27 p.m. on Saturday in El Reno, the mayor said. At 10:31, the tornado struck, damaging a southeast section of the town near Interstate 40. The trailer park has 88 spots for mobile homes, Mr. White said, and the search-and-rescue effort was focusing on a debris-strewn area of about 15 sites.
The mayor, a lifelong resident of El Reno, said first responders were searching the rubble for survivors. “We are all hands on deck,” Mr. White said, adding: “Pray for our community. We’ve been through a lot here lately.”
A local television news reporter, Aaron Brilbeck of the CBS affiliate News 9, showed the power of the storm as it came through the town, posting on Twitter: “The hotel across the street from us was leveled. Victims are being pulled from the rubble.”
Oklahoma has been rocked by scattered tornadoes and heavy rainfall in recent days. The storms have flooded the Arkansas River in eastern Oklahoma, forcing officials to release large amounts of water from the Keystone Dam. But none of the tornadoes that touched down had caused major damage or fatalities in residential areas until the one that hit El Reno late Saturday.
The tornado struck a few days before the six-year anniversary of one of the worst tornadoes to ever hit El Reno. On May 31, 2013, an unusually wide EF-3 tornado — the fourth-strongest on the enhanced Fujita scale, with an EF-5 being the most powerful — tore through the El Reno area and killed eight people.
Among those who died were three storm chasers, including Tim Samaras, who was known for his appearances on the reality television show “Storm Chasers.”