The series of devastating tornados that ripped across the Midwest on Monday destroyed a Love’s Travel Stop on Interstate 40 in Choctaw, OK, the company said.
According to KOTV News on 6 in Tulsa, there were about 80 people who took cover from the tornado inside the Love’s. The station said district manager Warren Waltz was there at the time.
“My big concern was just everyone's safety, of course myself included, just hoping we had everyone in a safe place and everyone was going to come through,” Waltz told the station.
Waltz said customers and employees took shelter inside bathrooms, freezers and the cooler.
“It’s an experience that I've often wondered about being a native of Oklahoman,” Waltz said. “ I certainly got to experience it first-hand. I hope it’s the last time I have that opportunity, but it worked out of the best all things considered.”
Miraculously, no one was injured. According to the Love’s corporate website, the company will rebuild the station.
Christina Dukeman, communications manager for Love’s, said the store “sustained a direct hit from one of the many tornados on Monday afternoon. Many customers, including professional truck drivers and the motoring public, were in the store at the time. Many other people pulled off the highway and sought shelter in our store. Our managers on duty and store team members acted quickly in moving everyone to safety in either the beverage cooler, restrooms or storage rooms. Those areas are designated safe areas during tornados, and store employees are trained on safety procedures for situations just like this one.”
Dukeman said there is no estimate on the timeframe for rebuilding the center and right now the company is focusing on placing employees at other Love’s locations in the area.
There are two other Love’s locations nearby, each about 30 mi. from the site of the Choctaw store. Both are located on I-40.