'A Lot Of Sweat, A Lot Of Tears': Lengthy Clean Up Expected At Will Rogers Downs Following EF3 Tornado

The Cherokee Nation says it will be a long process to clean up tornado damage at Will Rogers Downs and the nearby KOA campground in Rogers County. Hundreds of people were at the casino and campgrounds when the tornado blew through over the weekend.

Friday, May 31st 2024, 5:22 pm

By: Cal Day


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The Cherokee Nation says it will be a long process to clean up tornado damage at Will Rogers Downs and the nearby KOA campground in Rogers County. Hundreds of people were at the casino and campgrounds when the tornado blew through over the weekend.

Staff said they followed their severe weather plans, which gave them about 10 minutes to get people into the two shelters onsite. News On 6 arrived on the scene shortly after the tornado hit.

“We actually had the whole camper twist and we had several windows blow out,” said a visitor. “Stuff got sucked back out the windows.”

The Cherokee Nation says 143 of the 190 camping sites were filled with campers and RVs. Many of them are still turned over and destroyed because of the tornado.

Officials know it could have been much worse, crediting the staff working that night with getting people to safety.

“There was individuals there that took their training seriously,” said Bryan Warner, deputy principal chief of the Cherokee Nation. “They saved lives quite frankly.”

The damage is widespread across the Will Rogers Downs complex. Barns and grandstands are mangled, and there is a lot of roof damage to the casino.

“I’m a creature of habit,” said Warner. “When I come in I have a habit of looking around and seeing things the way they were and today it is no longer that way.”

It will be a lengthy process to get the campgrounds and racing arena cleaned up. Warner says everyone is up for the challenge.

“Everybody wants to know how quickly can we get back to some normalcy,” said Warner. “That will take some time each and every day. It will be a lot of sweat, a lot of tears.”

The Cherokee Nation says it met with about 80 employees who work on site to assure them they will still have a paycheck coming in throughout the clean up process.

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