Car dealers were recovering from damage and organizing aid to survivors today after a two-mile-wide tornado ravaged an Oklahoma City suburb, but there were no reports of the massive twister directly hitting dealerships.
The tornado -- which devastated suburban Moore on Monday afternoon -- caused at least 24 deaths, according to Reuters.
The National Weather Service this afternoon officially classified the tornado as an EF5, the most-powerful on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. EF5 tornadoes can produce wind speeds of more than 200 mph.
Steve Rankin, president of the Oklahoma Automobile Dealers Association, said this morning that his office was gathering information on how dealers were affected. He said dealerships were aiding customers and employees case by case.
No new-car dealerships are in Moore, but some Oklahoma City area dealers reported hail damage to their inventory.
David Stanley Automotive Group has three stores in central Oklahoma, and CEO David Stanley said inventory at two of them -- David Stanley Chevrolet in Oklahoma City and David Stanley Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge in Midwest City -- sustained damage.
Stanley said General Motors and Chrysler Group were sending extra vehicles, and his Chevrolet store was collecting supplies to send to victims.
"Everyone is just distraught," Stanley said. "We drove by and there were two huge boulders on the side of the road where houses used to be."
Brent Wilson, general manager of the Midwest City store, said nearly all of the 750 new and 250 used vehicles on his lot were damaged. Salespeople were trying to sell the damaged vehicles at a discount and may fix some that have minor damage, he said.
Wilson said about five dealership employees' homes were destroyed or damaged.
He said he expected dealership operations to return to normal within days, but business is unlikely to pick up for several weeks.
"The public perspective is, they're in shock," Wilson said. "They're not going to be moving around for a while. They're going to be glued to their TVs and helping people."
Wilson said that when his employees arrived at work this morning, they called local radio stations to organize a supplies drive.
"The amount that we've already got is shocking," he said.
He said his employees would use a truck from a local furniture store to deliver toiletries and other necessities to storm victims this afternoon.
At the David Stanley store in Oklahoma City, almost all of the nearly 700 new and used vehicles on the lot were damaged, said Matt Baker, the store's general manager. CEO Stanley estimated the damage at $2,000 per vehicle.
David Hudiburg, president of Hudiburg Auto Group, a five-store group in the area, said his Nissan and Subaru stores in Oklahoma City had 400 vehicles that were damaged, and his Chevrolet, Buick-GMC and Toyota-Scion dealerships in Midwest City had 1,200 vehicles that sustained less damage.
He said one of his 400 employees lost his home, five had minor damage to their dwellings and 20 were without power. He said many of the dealership's customers live in Moore.
No stranger to disasters
Hudiburg is no stranger to disasters: In May 1999, one of his stores was damaged by a massive tornado, damaging all 800 vehicles and 70 percent of his dealership.
"So I know what it's like to wake up and not have a business," he said.
Hudiburg said he is working with the Red Cross, Salvation Army and United Way to provide temporary transportation to relief workers and people whose homes were destroyed.
Rose Morgan, executive director of the Oklahoma Independent Automobile Dealers Association, headquartered in Moore, said none of the used-car lots in Moore took a direct hit from the storm.