EL RENO, Okla. (Reuters) – Rescue workers on Sunday searched for survivors in the rubble left by a tornado that devastated parts of a small community near Oklahoma City, leaving two dead, more than two dozen injured and hundreds homeless, officials said.
It was the latest in a barrage of violent weather that is expected to continue after pounding the Central Plains states last week with deadly tornadoes, high winds, drenching thunderstorms and widespread flooding.
In addition to killing two people, the tornado that cut a 10-mile (16-km) swath through El Reno, Oklahoma, on Saturday night left 29 others with minor to critical injuries and displaced hundreds more, the city’s mayor said.
“It’s a very trying time for us but we’re going to get through it,” a sometimes emotional Mayor Matt White told reporters on Sunday.
“There are several hundred people affected by this,” he said. “People have absolutely lost everything.”
Rescue workers combed through the debris field that had been a mobile home park and an Americas Best Value Inn motor lodge where the tornado did its worst damage in the community about 25 miles (40 km) west of Oklahoma City.
The National Weather Service (NWS) in Norman, Oklahoma, preliminarily classified the tornado as an EF2, meaning its rotating winds ranged from 111 to 135 miles per hour (179 to 217 km per hour).
El Reno was among several areas in Oklahoma and Missouri to be hit with heavy rains and river flooding last week, with local media reporting that first responders had made some two dozen boat rescues.
“We’ve gone through situation after situation after situation, and they’ve gone nonstop,” said White.
Forecasters expect a moderate risk of more tornadoes and flooding in the central states on Sunday.
“The ground is pretty saturated so it doesn’t take a whole lot of rain to get some additional flooding,” NWS meteorologist Mark Chenard at the Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland, said.
The weather pattern that has spawned violent storms and flooding from the Texas Panhandle north to Iowa will remain in place for at least the next three or four days, he said.
“There could be a brief break, but the pattern still looks like it remains favorable for some type of thunderstorm activity across the central part of the country pretty much through the week,” said Chenard.
At least seven people were killed by storms last week.
Reporting by Alonzo Adams; Additional reporting and writing by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker