Mayor of El Reno: The city is in crisis

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EL RENO, Okla. -- Red Cross disaster volunteers set up a warming center and shelter at a local fieldhouse after large portions of El Reno experienced power outages.

"We’re here to make sure they have someplace to go and can stay warm," said Alicia Howard, a volunteer. "We want to make sure everybody has a place to stay warm and they have some food until they get their power back on and hopefully that’s soon."

Much of El Reno went dark Saturday evening under the weight of an ice storm that knocked out power to more than 100,000 Oklahomans.

OG&E says Yukon, El Reno and the Enid area were among the hardest hit.

"We've got crews out there," said Christina Dukeman, a spokesperson for OG&E. "They are working hard as safely as they can. They are doing all they can to get people back up and running on this cold night."

Dukeman says OG&E is performing what is called a "step restoration process," bringing power back to areas where the utility believes it can get the most people back fastest.

"So if there is an area that has a couple thousand customers and they have access to the area and it's stable, then those customers will be repaired first," Dukeman said.

School in El Reno has been canceled for Monday since all of the school buildings are without power.

On Sunday night, over 5,000 residents were still without electricity.

“El Reno is in a crisis.  There’s lots of trees down.  It is devastating to our community,” said Matt White, the mayor of El Reno.

The mayor didn’t mince words at a press conference Sunday afternoon when describing how the icy wonderland has brought their city to a halt.

“You drive around town, the older part of the community is really, really bad.  It’s terrible,” said White.  “There’s some big major lines and that’s why we’re having a problem getting the power back on.”

“I mean, it was weird to drive down the street and no lights, no store lights on, nothing.  It was just kind of scary,” said Peggy Bigpond.

Bigpond went to a hotel after her power went out and then they lost power at the hotel as well, so she came back home.

“But it is crazy here.  I drove through town and all the trees that are laying in the street,” said Bigpond.

Many residents were beginning the clean up Sunday afternoon, cutting limbs and dragging them to the curb.

And some have bigger worries than living without power.

“When I come in here I heard crackling and that was all orange and burning in there,” said Lyndell Brooks.

Brooks woke early Saturday morning to flames in his home.

He got his wife and two children outside with only the clothes on their backs.

Their home is a total loss.

Firefighters say it might have sparked because of a candle left burning, but the Brooks family says they blew them all out.

“The electricity had been on for about 10, 15 minutes so I assume that as soon as the electricity came back on, we might’ve had a power surge and caused the fire,” said Brooks.

Utility crews planned to work through the night repairing the downed lines, but Mayor White cautioned residents to be patient.

“If you don’t have power now, it’s going to take two or three days.  Be prepared for that,” said White.

A shelter is set up at the Jenks Simmons Field House through Friday for residents who don’t have power and have nowhere else to go. On Dec. 4, the City will reevaluate to determine if the shelter will stay open longer.

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