Tornado Rips Through Oklahoma Casino During Beach Boys Concert

Posted on: October 23, 2017, 04:00h. 

Last updated on: October 23, 2017, 03:44h.

A sold-out Beach Boys show at the Riverwind Casino in Norman, Oklahoma, was interrupted by a small tornado Saturday night. The unexpected visitor ripped the roof off the casino, damaging more than 800 slots, video poker, and other gaming machines.

Riverwind casino tornado damage
A probable tornado tore off part of the roof at the Riverwind Casino in Oklahoma, and did other damage but caused no injuries. (Image: Hans Owens)

A hotel connected to the resort had to relocate guests for the weekend, due to safety concerns with broken windows and a large piece of the building’s facade being blown away.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin attended the concert Saturday, and was among the evacuated when the twister hit. She told reporters that she received a warning on her phone about the impending tornado.

“I looked up towards the balcony and there’s this huge flood of rain coming through the roof into the concert hall,” Fallin said.

She and other concertgoers were abruptly shuffled out of the concert venue because of concerns that the sudden torrential rains could cause the roof to collapse.

Casino officials put out a statement after the storm:

“Because we care about our employees and patrons, we take weather advisories very seriously. But like all Oklahomans, we know that weather events such as this can hit without warning and unfortunately, that is what happened at Riverwind last night.”

No Warning

Riverwind spokeswoman Kym Koch said they were aware of the storms in the area but didn’t have time to react.

“Our crews were watching, making sure that we were taking all of the necessary precautions, but we didn’t get a warning until the tornado was upon the building,” she said.

In addition to structural damage, more than 800 of the casino’s 2,700 gaming machines malfunctioned in subsequent flooding and had to be taken offline. Workers spent most of Sunday trying to get them back up and running, and by Monday morning all but 60 were operational.

Koch said thing were slowly getting back to normal by late Sunday.

“The power is back on,” she told local media, “but we’re still assessing damage and we’re taking care of the patrons who are booked there for the next night or two and putting them up in another hotel.”

The casino’s kitchens also were not operational for a while due to the tornado, so Riverwind called in a food truck to help serve hungry customers, who are still showing up to the casino in usual numbers despite the debris. Koch said the hotel should start taking reservations again later this week.

Mild Tornado

The National Weather Service gave the twister a preliminary EF-1 rating, capable of producing winds up to 110 mph. NWS meteorologist Daryl Williams said preliminary reports showed the tornado was dangerous, though relatively not that powerful.

“There’s somebody still out in the field investigating all the activity last night,” he said on Sunday. “Right now, there appears to be only one tornado in the Norman area.”

No deaths or injuries were reported. Though parts of the gaming area remain roped off for cleanup and repairs, the casino did not have to close. There’s been no word yet about the plans for the Beach Boys to reschedule the show.