Revisiting El Reno: One Year Later
May 28 was a busy day in the metro. Multiple storms caused problems across the state. In the El Reno area, mobile homes and a motel were destroyed. The storm killed two people and injured dozens of others.
Almost a year later, we tracked the two-mile path of the EF-3 tornado, that packed winds around 145 miles per hour.
"It came through here and really got these mobile homes and of course as we know it traveled up here and hit the motel," Bob Mills SkyNews 9 Pilot Jim Gardner said.
"What's amazing about it is the path is only just over 2 miles in length, but we had an EF-3 tornado," Chief Meteorologist David Payne said.
On that night, News 9’s Aaron Brilbeck was positioned to where he could respond fast if a tornado formed. Instead, he got caught in it.
"So the rain picked up and the wind picked up and the next thing we knew we realized we were in a tornado," Aaron said.
He added, "The lights kicked back on again and we had a better feeling for just how serious this thing is. Then the lightning flashes over to my left here and from that I can see the silhouette of what's left of the motel. After that we start seeing people walking over in this direction. They're covered in blood, clothes are torn. We start making our way over there to see if we can help. Then more and more people, one right after the other, come out. It looked like the zombie apocalypse."
News 9 talked to several people at the scene that night, including victims like Al Garrison who had to be rescued from the debris.
"It hit the trailer next to us and slammed it into us and then flipped it over on top of us and it just flattened the house. Then we heard our son outside who was trying to tear the walls off to get to us," Garrison said.
That night, we also heard from Ramesh Pattel, the owner of the destroyed motel.
"The good part of all of this is as far as we know, all of our customers are out, and they are all OK." Pattel said.
Fast forward to almost a year later and Pattel remembers rushing to the scene.
"So, we got in the shelter when we came out, we saw the news that the hotel was gone. When we got here our main concern was the people. Was anyone missing, was anyone injured? All were accounted for and all were okay. It was a miracle," he said.
"Whenever I used to come here in the beginning, I used to choke up, I mean literally choke up. Almost cry. We lost a lot of stuff but no lives and that was the best part of it," he added.
Some of those injured at the mobile home park are still recovering. Maria Escalante lost her leg in the storm. Her 2-year-old daughter suffered a broken pelvis and leg. Last time we talked to the family, Ricardo, Maria's husband, was very thankful the injuries were not more serious.
"I hope. Yeah, I mean it's hard to come back to the life, but we have to," Ricardo said.
Habitat for Humanity volunteers will be joining the couple as they build their new home later this month.
So, while we prepare for another busy storm season, we will not forget last year's deadly storm as many El Reno residents continue to rebuild.