OKC West Livestock Market heavily damaged by tornado
By Dave Bergmeier
A long-time livestock marketing outlet in Oklahoma received about $3 million in damage from a tornado May 31 and is temporarily closed, but the general manager plans to have the sale barn up and going soon.
The OKC West Livestock Market, El Reno, was in the path of an EF-5 tornado that was rated as the widest path on record by the National Weather Service in nearby Norman. The OKC West Auction Livestock is on a 147-acre complex and is about 25 miles west of Oklahoma City.
“It’s a bad deal,” said Bill Barnhart, general manager. “We lost all our buildings. Fortunately, my pens are for the most part in decent shape.”
His confidence to be able to return the sale barn as a marketing outlet resulted from the knowledge that a scale, other important parts essential to the operation, and a penning area are all intact.
As extensive as the damage that occurred, the timing of the tornado striking on a Friday, two days after the regular weekly sale on May 29, was a godsend, he said. In its last report on May 29, the sale barn sold 6,244 head of livestock.
“We were very fortunate as we had the least number of people and cattle on site Friday (May 31),” he said.
About 160 head of cattle were on the grounds and only a few suffered serious injuries, he said.
The sale barn has 60 employees and he has pledged to retain his staff. The employees have been busy helping clean up the sale barn.
“We’ll be rebuilding everything and I want us to be up and running as soon as possible,” Barnhart said.
The sale barn will start back up with temporary facilities, the general manager said, as his staff is putting together a plan to be able to resume livestock sales. A timeline has not been determined but he expects sales to resume soon.
The aftermath of the EF-5 tornado will be one that Barnhart will never forget. He lives about 40 miles from the sale barn. He was monitoring the storm from home and his instincts were to react.
“As soon as I was sure that we were on the bullseye, I drove over as fast as I could and it took me over two hours to get there,” he said.
“It was worse than I ever could have imagined,” Barnhart said when asked what his first thoughts were when surveying the damage. “It was a miracle for us. The good Lord was looking out over us. We have 12 people (employees) who live near here and they all got out without a scratch.”
During the rebuilding process, Barnhart said producers can call the office for information. That number is 405-262-8800. OKC West Livestock Market has a website at www.okc-west.com.
The ownership of the sale barn has a posting on its website that read, “Due to the damage that we received we are closed, but we will be up and running soon.”
The OKC West Livestock is a regular feature in High Plains Journal in the Livestock Markets section.