Stockyard workers survive multi-vortex tornado
EL RENO, Okla. – Looking at the OKC West Livestock Market, it’s unrecognizable.
The steel building is crushed. The auction arena is covered with debris.
Still, a dozen people working there the May 31 tornado hit made it out.
Shelton Bryan has to duck to show where he road out the tornado.
He was underneath steel stairs with seven others.
“It was four girls and three guys. Us guys put all the women toward the front of the stairs here,” Bryan said.
They were all working at Gilmore’s Kitchen inside the building when the multi-vortex tornado roared through.
“[We] just chain linked everyone, just grabbed what you can and who you can, and we just sat there. Some prayed. Some screamed. Some cried.”
Bryan said they were screaming because the safe haven they were counting on was falling apart all around them.
“You could hear the stuff being ripped apart, pulled. You could hear the iron twisting,” Bryan said.”You’d feel the suction kinda pull you a little bit.”
While they were struggling against the tornado’s power, other workers across the stockyard were seeking shelter.
Three employees climbed out of the rubble alive because they ran underground where the cattle scales are located.
Ironically, the stockyard had storm shelters for sale on the property. While they weren’t bolted into the ground, they saved the lives of two others.
“The people came out of here fine, and that was a real blessing,” said stockyard owner, Bill Barnhart.
The owner of Gilmore’s Kitchen, Mark Gilmore, was surprised any of his seven employees made it out alive.
“My hero, Shelton, made sure they were safe and it was a little scary, and I could tell they were shook up. A couple of them still are to this day,” said Gilmore. “I told them this is the closest you can get to being in the middle of it and being able to tell about it.”
“I thank the Lord it was close. The Lord had his hands on seven lives that night,” said Bryan.
As for the cattle, the stockyard had 160 head on the property. Seven of them were thrown across Interstate 40, and they all survived. Four are still missing, and two died.