Path Home Shows 2017 Show Archive April 2017 Show 1716 Canadian Valley Tech: Devastated

Canadian Valley Tech: Devastated

The most dangerous storm in tornado-observing history produced an EF5 tornado that hit Canadian Valley Technology Center in El Reno, Oklahoma.
Canadian Valley Tech: Devastated

Canadian Valley Tech: Devastated

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Top 10 Deadliest Oklahoma Tornadoes

Canadian Valley Technology Center


Show Details

Show 1716: Canadian Valley Tech: Devastated
Air Date: April 16, 2017



Rob McClendon: Well, less than two weeks after the deadly Moore tornado a second storm that the National Weather Service referred to as the most dangerous storm in tornado-observing history, well, it hit El Reno. It too took lives and had another school directly in its bullseye.

As far as Canadian County, it was the worst-case scenario.

I couldn’t believe what I saw out there. I had to stop and think, is this really happening?

Greg Winters: Moving forward after that day, we didn’t have the luxury of making bad decisions.

George Fina: I think that this school is a heart. It’s the heart of this community.

Jacob Manuel: You know before I came to Canadian Valley, I had just graduated high school, didn’t really know, you know, what I wanted to do.

Bill Bradley: I’ve been involved in career and technology education all of my adult life. I know who the students are, and I know that they need the services and educational programs that we provide.

Manuel: I saw the automotive services program offered by Canadian Valley.

Fina: They could come out here, they can be trained, and next week they’ve got a job.

Manuel: Once I got in it and found out that it’s what I like to do, and they helped me find my career.

Fina: I’ve never missed handing out diplomas. That’s why I do what I do. And at least 85 percent of those people walking across that stage have already got a job. Some of them don’t even show up for graduation because they’re working.

Marc Belew: CareerTech provides so many workers statewide for lots of various occupations.

Fina: I would say that we affect a lot of lives and also add to the community.

Bradley: Whenever I was leaving the school building that evening at 5:30, and I was thinking about the new chapter that might be happening for Canadian Valley Technology Center on Monday, June the third, and little did I know that there was going to be a new chapter. It’s just not exactly the same chapter that I was thinking about that evening.

Winters: May 31 was a Friday. So I told my secretary I was going to run down to El Reno to have lunch. There was a lot of SUV-type vehicles, hail damaged vehicles, radio antennas, you know ,there was about a dozen of them out in the parking lot. And I struck up a conversation with these guys. They were storm chasers.

David Payne: So I was in the field that day. I was chasing. You know, I’ve chased storms for a long, long time. So I’ve seen about everything. Or so I thought.

Larry Fisher: I was teaching a night class. And we were the only people out there, my students, myself and the night coordinator, Neal Blitzer. I had an uneasy feeling driving out there. You could kind of feel the conditions in the air, you know. There was something different and something big.

Payne: I mean, it came down to the atmosphere was just, you know, it was a powder keg.

Bradley: So I was driving home, obviously could see the clouds. When I got back home, I immediately turned on the television. And it was like something I really hadn’t ever seen before.

Payne: A thunderstorm is a breathing, eating. It’s alive. The whole sky was turning. And it’s turning over about a 4-mile area. At that point, I kept thinking if it goes to the ground nobody’s going to be safe.

Storm-chaser: What I can tell you is the whole sky is sitting on the ground, and it is just churning.

Winters: There were three gentlemen from The Weather Channel that were there that the conditions were perfect for a big tornado today. And I asked them, “Where?” And they said, “Well, here.”

Storm-chaser: The whole cloud base is almost on the ground. That whole thing is just circling like a top, Gary. It’s right here in the middle, it’s touching down again. There it is, it’s on the ground now. There it is, Gary, right in the middle of my shot.

Bradley: At first I thought that the storms were going to do and miss the school, they were going to go south of the school. But then, I looked back again and saw that the storms were headed directly toward the school.

Payne: The fact that, that was moving southeast at 20, 25, made a left turn, accelerated to nearly 60 miles per hour. You’ve gone from just over a half-mile wide, main tornado with small vortices underneath it. Now, we’ve gone to over 2-1/2 miles wide.

Storm-chaser: Gary, it’s moving southeast. It’s moving southeast, Gary.

Fisher: They said it was coming down I-40, so I went out and opened the door and looked out across the parking lot. And lo and behold, I could see the tornado coming right at us.

Storm-chaser: Boy, there it is. It’s multiple vortices again. There it is, it’s on the ground again, multiple vortices. I can see three funnels right now.

Payne: So it looked like a merry-go-round. You have the center part, and then around it you had seven other vortices. Those were moving at 150 mile per hour ground speed.

Winters: You don’t mess around. You know, these are serious. These are serious, will hurt you or kill you, potential storms.

Storm-chaser: Gary, it’s becoming a very, very big tornado, by the El Reno airport.

Fisher: We all got down below. You could look up and see the outside. And I could tell it was a storm like I’d never seen before or heard of. I could see stuff as big as cars flying through the air outside. And it just literally sounded like everything was just total destruction.

Storm-chaser: I chased storms for 25 years. No one had ever seen anything like it.

Rob McClendon: And the Canadian Valley Tech Center took a direct hit. When we return, picking up the pieces.