EL RENO — Ann Knight didn't hear the freight train sound Friday night that so many people describe hearing during tornadoes, but she could hear the home she shares with her mother creaking and popping as the wind tried to rip it apart.
Knight and her 95-year-old mother, Margie Line, live on Route 66 just west of Banner Road. Their home is within the 5-mile path a killer tornado took on the historic highway and Interstate 40, where they parallel each other on the south side of El Reno.
Several homes and businesses, a few barns and the Canadian Valley Technology Center were among the buildings that took a direct hit from the tornado.
Knight's home had roof damage but stood up surprisingly well in the face of the storm. A wooden shed in the yard was thrown 50 yards and turned to a pile of kindling. Power poles on either side of the street were snapped in half.
“We were here in the closet,” Knight said. “We do have a cellar, but my mother can't go down there anymore. So we rode it out together.”
Like others who survived the storm, Knight said Saturday she felt lucky to be alive.
“It could have been so much worse,” she said.
A couple of miles down the road, an El Reno man retrieved tools and other items from two pickups in the parking lot of the Canadian Valley Technology Center. The man, who did not want to give his name, was in a class with his son during the storm. Both their pickups were destroyed, with one of them flipped on its roof.
Gravel in the parking lot ripped paint and chrome from vehicles in a sandblasting effect.
Students and instructors rode out the storm in a lower level of the building. The brick wall was torn from the classroom where they had been gathered minutes earlier. Large sections of the school's roof were torn away.
The four main buildings on campus all had at least moderate damage and none were usable. Classes at both the El Reno and Cowan campuses are canceled through June 7, along with scheduled meetings and the day care center.
A Youth and Family Services shelter in the area took damage, forcing the group to move children to other shelters, Executive Director Dee Blose said. Nine children were in the shelter and were taken to a safe room to ride out the storm.
“The building is standing, but there is extensive roof damage and water throughout the building,” Blose said.
The children were taken to shelters in Stillwater, Enid and Norman. The shelters provide temporary and emergency housing to abused and homeless youths that are in the custody of the state Human Services Department or Juvenile Affairs office.
To the east, T.J. and Judy Cavins, of El Reno, picked through the remains of the home T.J. Cavins grew up in. It was built by his grandfather in 1957.
“Thankfully, no one was living in it at the time,” Judy Cavins said. “It's a total loss, but a lot of people have lost more. We still have another home to go to.”