El Reno, Oklahoma

El Reno is a city in and county seat of Canadian County, Oklahoma, United States.[3] As of the 2010 census, the city population was 16,729. The city was begun shortly after the 1889 land rush and named for the nearby Fort Reno.[4] It is located in Central Oklahoma, about 25 miles (40 km) west of downtown Oklahoma City.

El Reno, Oklahoma
Downtown El Reno
Location of El Reno, Oklahoma
El Reno, Oklahoma
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 35°31′49″N 97°57′27″W
CountryUnited States
  Total80.4 sq mi (208.3 km2)
  Land80.0 sq mi (207.1 km2)
  Water0.4 sq mi (1.2 km2)
1,358 ft (414 m)
  Density210/sq mi (80/km2)
Time zoneUTC-6 (Central (CST))
  Summer (DST)UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s)405
FIPS code40-23700
GNIS feature ID1092512 [2]


The city was originally located about 5 miles (8.0 km) north of its present location, on the banks of the North Canadian River, bearing the name Reno City, which caused its mail to get mixed up with mail for Reno, Nevada. After the second time the town flooded, it was moved to its present location and changed its name to El Reno. This word is Spanish for "the reindeer".[5]

Originally, the land of Canadian County belonged to Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, but in 1874, Fort Reno was established and General Philip Sheridan took commanded. Sheridan named the fort in honor of his friend, Gen. Jesse L. Reno, who was killed in the American Civil War the regiment of Confederate General John Bell Hood. The grounds of the old fort became home to a research laboratory for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1948.[4] The laboratory studies environmentally sustainable forage and livestock production, contributing to preservation of the Great Plains of North America.

El Reno is located on the 98th meridian west, which allowed the eastern side to be opened to non-Indian settlement in the Land Rush of 1889. The western side was opened in the 1892 opening of the Cheyenne and Arapaho lands. It was subsequently selected as the land district office for the 1901 land lottery drawings.[4]

During World War II, Fort Reno, about 5 mi (8.0 km) northwest of El Reno, was the site of a prisoner of war camp, and today contains a POW cemetery, with stones bearing the names of German and Italian prisoners who died there.

Southwestern Federal Reformatory, restricted to male prisoners under the age of 35, was constructed about 2 miles (3.2 km) west of El Reno in 1935. Renamed the Federal Correctional Institution of El Reno in the mid-1970s, the population expanded to include men of all ages. It became the fifth-largest prison in the U.S. It is still one of the largest employers in El Reno.[4]

El Reno is one of few cities in Oklahoma to have a streetcar in operation in the downtown area. At one time, it possessed a terminal and repair facility for the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad (CRI&P or "Rock Island"), which employed a large number of people. The CRI&P went bankrupt in 1979. The railyards have remained vacant property. The old train depot and some other buildings were acquired by the Canadian County Historical Society for use as part of a museum complex.[4] The 1954 film noir Human Desire includes locomotive and yard scenes filmed in the El Reno rail yards.

El Reno is a Main Street community. The Oklahoma Main Street Program is a downtown revitalization program and the El Reno Program won the Great American Main Street Award in 2006.

The town is noted for its annual Fried Onion Burger Day Festival, which is always the first Saturday in May. Burger Day is when visitors can witness the cooking of the world's largest fried onion hamburger, weighing over 850 lb (390 kg). The giant burger contains all the important parts of the famous El Reno fried onion burgers, which include meat, fried onions, sliced pickles, and mustard all between two giant buns. Not only do festival goers get to watch the massive burger be built and cooked, but they are also allowed to help eat the monstrosity. Volunteers divide the giant burger into individual-sized portions with burger-sized cookie cutters. Other volunteers shuttle back and forth from the burger to the crowd, delivering the free portions to anyone wanting a piece. The idea of the fried onion burger was born out of necessity during the Great Depression, when onions were used to stretch out the meat supply.

On June 15, 2015, Sid's Diner was featured on the Food Network series Top 5 Restaurants, with the fried-onion burger being highlighted. Sid's Diner has also been featured on the Travel Channel series Man v. Food.

2013 tornado

On May 31, 2013, El Reno was hit by a multiple-vortex tornado. The tornado set a record with a width of 2.6 miles (4.2 km). The Weather Channel's Mike Bettes was hit by this storm, but survived it. Tim Samaras, his son Paul, and TWISTEX colleague Carl Young lost their lives near the Regional Airport. Paul and Young were ejected from their Chevrolet Cobalt by the tornado's subvortex, while Tim was still buckled in the passenger's seat next to Young's driving seat. Local amateur chaser Richard Henderson lost his life in that same area. Before the tornado struck him, Henderson snapped a picture of it from his mobile phone and sent that picture to a friend.[6] Dan Robinson of St. Louis, Missouri successfully escaped the tornado with a few injuries. He was a few hundred meters ahead of the TWISTEX crew.[7]

2019 tornado

An EF3 tornado struck southern parts of El Reno on May 25, 2019. Touching down at 10:32 pm, the tornado damaged a service station before moving east-northeastward, crossing Interstate 40, and damaging billboards before striking a motel and a mobile home park at U.S. Highway 81, both of which suffered significant damage. One part of the motel had most of its second-floor walls destroyed, and several mobile homes were destroyed, killing two people and injuring many others. East of Highway 81, the tornado damaged an automobile service building and a house on Route 66. The tornado then caused tree damage before dissipating on Alfadale Road north of Route 66. The tornado had a maximum estimated width of 75 yards (69 m) and injured 19 people.[8]


El Reno is located at 35°31′49″N 97°57′27″W (35.530261, 97.957529).[9] According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 80.4 square miles (208 km2), of which 80.0 square miles (207 km2) of it are land and 0.4 square miles (1.0 km2) of it (0.56%) is covered by water.

El Reno is located in the United States at the interchange of I-40 and U.S. Route 81. At one time, it sat on the boundary between Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory, and sits about 20 miles (32 km) west of the old Chisholm Trail. Jesse Chisholm is buried nearby.

In 1952, a magnitude 5.5 earthquake struck near El Reno, causing damage to several buildings in the city. It is currently Oklahoma's third-strongest earthquake on record, and it was the strongest earthquake in Oklahoma history prior to the November 5, 2011 earthquake near Sparks.


El Reno has endured numerous weather-related incidents in recent years:

  • On January 30, 2002, El Reno was hit by a severe ice storm that left most of the city without power for several days and caused thousands of dollars of damage in downed trees and powerlines. The storm brought around two inches of ice, with as much as 6 inches over the following days. All of Canadian County was designated as a Federal Disaster Area.
  • During the May 3, 1999 tornado outbreak, El Reno suffered damage from one of the many tornadoes that formed from the same storm that produced the infamous F5 tornado that day. Parts of Redlands Community College were damaged.
  • El Reno has weathered several ice storms in recent years, including the January 4–5, 2005, storm that left up to two inches of ice in the hardest-hit locations.
  • In 2006, El Reno experienced "exceptional" drought conditions, as the entire state endured one of the driest summers on record.
  • On March 12, 2006, drought conditions allowed an area wildfire to grow to burn over 1000 acres (4 km²). Winds carried the smoke into the Oklahoma City metro area, spurring thousands of calls to emergency services by concerned residents.
  • On April 24, 2006, a rare anticyclonic tornado hit El Reno's municipal airport, causing damage to the hangars and small airplanes.
  • On the night of May 8, 2007, a tornado ripped through the south and east sides of the city. At least one injury occurred when the tornado knocked over a truck and semitrailer on I-40.
  • Overnight on August 19, 2007, Tropical Storm Erin dumped over 10 inches (250 mm) of rain on El Reno and the surrounding area. This caused extensive flooding.
  • On May 24, 2011, a violent long-track tornado passed through the El Reno area, causing extensive damage and killing nine people. The tornado was given an EF5 rating after reviewing the damage.
  • On May 31, 2013, the 2013 El Reno tornado, the widest tornado ever documented, hit El Reno. The tornado was an estimated 2.6 miles in width and had a recorded wind speed of >301 mph, one of the two highest wind speeds on record along with winds observed in the 1999 Bridge Creek–Moore tornado. It hit the outskirts of the city, prompting a tornado emergency for El Reno and surrounding cities. The tornado killed eight people, including four storm chasers.
  • On May 25, 2019, a tornado that has been rated at EF3 struck around 10:28 pm. It struck a mobile home park and a motel, killing two people.
Climate data for El Reno, Oklahoma
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 47.4
Average low °F (°C) 23.9
Average precipitation inches (mm) 1.0
Source #1: weather.com
Source #2: Weatherbase.com [10]


Historical population
Est. 201819,472[1]16.3%
U.S. Decennial Census[11]
2016 Estimate[12]

El Reno is part of the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Statistical Area.

As of the census of 2010,[13] 16,749 people, 5,727 households, and 3,842 families resided in the city. The population density was 202.7 people per square mile (78.3/km²). The 6,484 housing units averaged 81.1 per square mile (31.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 71.8% White, 11.1% Native American, 7.2% African American, 0.5% Asian, 4.7% from other races, and 4.7% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 12.9% of the population.

Of the 5,727 households, which 31.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.0% were married couples living together, 12.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.9% were not families. About 28.5% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.50 and the average family size was 3.08.

In the city, the population was distributed as 24.2% under the age of 18, 10.5% from 18 to 24, 30.8% from 25 to 44, 21.1% from 45 to 64, and 13.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females, there were 114.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 119.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $31,200, and for a family was $39,106. Males had a median income of $29,521 versus $20,107 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,570. About 11.4% of families and 16.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.6% of those under age 18 and 10.4% of those age 65 or over.

Government and infrastructure

The City of El Reno operates under a council-manager government system. City employees include the city manager, finance director, police chief, fire chief, city clerk, public works director, code enforcement director, community services director, and city librarian.[14]

The Federal Bureau of Prisons operates the Federal Correctional Institution, El Reno.[15]



The El Reno Tribune publishes Wednesday and Sunday and has a circulation around 5,000.[16]

Notable people

See also

National Register of Historic Places


  1. "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved August 1, 2019.
  2. "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. October 25, 2007. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  3. "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on July 12, 2012. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  4. Cynthia Savage, "El Reno." Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Retrieved October 10, 2013.
  5. Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. p. 118.
  6. Clay, Nolan (June 3, 2013). "Oklahoma storms: Amateur storm chaser took photo of tornado that killed him". The Oklahoman. Retrieved June 4, 2013.
  7. Hargrove, Brantley (29 August 2013). "The Last Ride of Legendary Storm Chaser Tim Samaras". Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  8. Public Information Statement: NWS Damage Survey For 05/25/2019 Tornado Event (Report). Iowa Environmental Mesonet. National Weather Service Norman, Oklahoma. May 26, 2019. Retrieved May 27, 2019.
  9. "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. February 12, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
  10. "Historical Weather for El Reno, Oklahoma, United States".
  11. United States Census Bureau. "Census of Population and Housing". Archived from the original on May 12, 2017. Retrieved June 21, 2017.
  12. "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2016". Retrieved June 21, 2013.
  13. "El Reno, Oklahoma. 2010 Census results". Archived from the original on 2 February 2016. Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  14. City of El Reno (accessed August 14, 2013)
  15. "FCI El Reno Contact Information." Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved on October 1, 2010.
  16. FinderBinder: Oklahoma's Updated Media Directory, 2010 Winter Issue.
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