Shana Erickson leans up from sorting through a pile of rubble and scoots a bucket to the side with her foot while reaching out to give Sandra Gallegos a hug. Both women were in tears as they helped to salvage any personal belongings from the mobile home belonging to Jaicey Guelig and Chad Strickland.
The couple were inside the trailer along with a roommate and her child when it was hit by the May 25 tornado. The 6-year-old girl, who attends school in Midwest City, were among a long list of youth displaced by the twister.
More than three dozen school-aged children were affected by the EF-3 tornado which slammed into El Reno’s Skyview Mobile Home Park.
El Reno Superintendent Craig McVay said 22 students from pre-kindergarten to 11th grade were displaced by the twister.
“All the kids were in the trailer park and I would say they are all homeless. They are all accounted for and I know they have been placed in some apartments and they are not at the shelter anymore,” said McVay.
The annex at Jenks Simmons Field House has been designated as a shelter for victims of the tornado.
The National Weather Service said the twister touched down at 10:28 p.m. and was on the ground for four minutes. The storm path was 75 yards wide and 2.2 miles in length, and included not only the mobile home park but three car dealerships. American Budget Value Inn took a direct hit from the tornado, while Economy Express Inn received damage.
McVay said he was notified about the storm by a text message.
“I was asleep and didn’t know anything had happened. I got a text message from another media outlet asking if I had a statement and they told me there had been a tornado.
“I jumped out and got down there pretty quick. It was a sinking feeling in your stomach. There were so many injuries,” said McVay.
He said two of the 22 children who attend El Reno schools were still in the hospital in Oklahoma City.
Riverside School Superintendent David Garner said eight to nine families from his district were in the mobile home park with 15 children affected.
“I have gotten a hold of them all and they are all healthy. I’ve talked with the parents and all of their homes were damaged but I don’t think they were among the ones destroyed,” said Garner.
Garner said Riverside School was in the path of the tornado had it stayed on the ground. He is thankful it did not, but said this night will not soon be forgotten.
“These families are going to have needs for a long time. Everyone is so emotional right now, I’m not sure they know what they need.
“We are going to get our school counselors involved because this is something they will relive for a long time. These kids saw things no kid should have to see, so we will get set up to help them. They are going to need support for a long time,” said Garner.
Garner said he will meet with the families from his school to see what they need.
“Right now I wanted to make initial contact to make sure they were OK. I will meet with them later to talk about long-term needs,” said Garner.
McVay is asking anyone wishing to help victims of the tornado to use the official GoFundMe page that was set up by the city of El Reno.
“We are encouraging everyone to donate to the official GoFundMe account set up by the city of El Reno. There is going to be relocation fees involved as well as transportation costs. It’s a bad deal and they are going to need everyone’s help,” said McVay.