Love’s Travel Stops hopes to rebuild a store along Interstate 40 that was destroyed by a tornado on Monday and is finding new positions for about two dozen of its workers who were displaced. The remains of the 5,000-square-foot Love’s Travel Stop at Interstate 40 and Choctaw Road will be demolished while the company looks into the possibility of rebuilding, said Jenny Love Meyer, director of communications for the Oklahoma City-based chain. A highway expansion project planned for 2012 at the interchange may determine whether Love’s can rebuild on the same site. "The store is a total loss at this point,” she said. "There’s lots of damage.” Employees are being offered jobs at other travel stops in the metro area, she said. Store employees and dozens of customers huddled in bathrooms and a beverage cooler when the tornado struck. There were no serious injuries, but the store was left in ruins, with collapsed walls and no roof. Gas and diesel from storage tanks under the store were pumped into tankers on Tuesday as the site was secured. The store was built in 1986 and was a popular stop for truckers and local customers. Meyer didn’t have a damage estimate but said the loss is "well into the six figures.” Across the highway, a Sonic Drive-In also sustained tornado damage and will be closed for several weeks for repairs, said spokeswoman Nancy Robertson. Four employees and one customer took shelter in the building. Signs, menu stands and canopies were damaged. Nearby, the Anderson Travel Plaza also had heavy damage. Owner Jay Kumar said he hid under a table in his office as the storm raged. "I thought, ‘We are dead,’” he said. Other businesses sustaining damage were a Country Boy IGA grocery store near Lake Thunderbird, the Seminole Airport and several businesses near it. State Sen. Harry Coates said several businesses owned by his family were damaged or destroyed. Coates Roofing and Coates Metal Works were in metal buildings near the Seminole Airport. The metal works company, which manufactures sheet metal, was destroyed. The roofing company also lost several buildings. An erosion control company across the road at the former Miller Plant Farm also had damage. Coates said the family will rebuild and reopen the business, but estimates losses at about $1 million. The companies employ about 125 people and some workers were on site Tuesday cleaning up debris. In addition, Coates said two brothers and his mother lost roofs from their homes. Three aircraft owned by the family at the airport were not damaged. "I’m just thankful that no one was seriously injured,” he said. The roofing company has many commercial projects, including the contract for roofing the Devon Tower building in downtown Oklahoma City. Aero-Tec Industries is near the airport and suffered major building damage, said company president Charles Harbert. The maker of aircraft supplies is closed until electricity is restored at the site, he said. "It beat the living tar out of it and broke some windows out of the front,” he said. The company has five workers but no one was there when the storm hit. "We consider ourselves lucky the building is still standing considering the total devastation around us,” Coates said. CONTRIBUTING: Staff Writer Michael Baker
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Also ...Help may be available Rep. Mary Fallin, R-Oklahoma City, urged business owners to contact the Small Business Administration if they need help recovering from tornado damage. During a news conference in front of the damaged Love’s Travel Stop, Fallin said she had heard of several business that won’t be collecting revenue for a while and that many people may be without jobs. The Small Business Administration can help with business interruption services, Fallin said.