David Stottlemyre was inside an oil field repair shop in El Reno, Oklahoma, when he saw a tornado "looking at us dead in the eye."
The lifelong Oklahoman said he and two co-workers stayed inside as the building took a direct hit; the roof collapsed and the structure blew apart. Though the three survived unscathed, "We're all pretty shook up," the oil field mechanic told CNN. "Surreal, really no other way to explain it."
Friday evening's twisters killed at least nine people, two of them children, and injured scores more in Oklahoma, the office of the city's medical examiner said. Five victims had not been identified.
Canadian County Undersheriff Chris West said the seven fatalities in his county were inside vehicles.
Oklahoma City-area hospitals treated 104 people for injuries related to the storm, the state health department said. Eleven were still being treated as of 5:15 p.m. (6:15 p.m. ET), hospital officials said.
A National Weather Service survey team found damage indicating an EF3 tornado had struck near El Reno, 25 miles west of Oklahoma City. EF3s pack gusts of 136 to 165 mph. The strongest tornado is an EF5.
It measured peak rainfall of 7.9 inches 45 miles east of Oklahoma City, outside Meeker.
The storms came less than two weeks after a monstrous EF5 tornado turned parts of Moore, a suburb of Oklahoma City, into rubble.
"There's just no rest," city spokeswoman Kristy Yager said.
In all, 17 tornadoes were reported in the Midwest. The number was expected to change when officials conduct storm surveys, said Kurt Van Speybroeck, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
At one point, some 200,000 customers were without power in the Midwest, most of them in Missouri and Oklahoma, though that number fell significantly as Saturday wore on. Three Oklahoma City-area medical facilities were running on generators Saturday, the health department said.
Tornado damage 'sobering'
While twisters damaged houses in Missouri and Illinois, Oklahoma City and its surrounding areas, including El Reno and Union City, were hit hardest.
The storm system swatted down power lines and uprooted trees, flicked big rigs on their sides and yanked off part of the terminal roof at Oklahoma City's Will Rogers World Airport, where some 1,500 area residents had taken shelter in a tunnel.
"We're just grateful we were able to get everybody down there," airport spokeswoman Karen Carney told CNN.
A power outage and debris on the runway -- caused by 80 mph winds, not a tornado -- at one point forced the airport to cancel all flights.
Service resumed Saturday, when the lights flickered back on to reveal water damage to the walls, counters and floors, Carney said.
One twister tore open Kris Meritt's parents' brick house like a carton, sucking out its contents and tossing most of them onto the lawn.
It spared the walls and part of the roof, then moved on to raze the house next door.
The parents returned to survey the damage, but rushed off when another tornado was headed their way.
"It's a sobering thing to think about life, and to see all your memories just tossed about," Merritt said. "Everything from your childhood on up."
Though Friday's tornadoes were not as strong as the EF5 twister that killed 24 people on May 20, fear drove some people into their cars to flee, ignoring warnings not to drive.
Officials described parts of Interstates 35 and 40 near Oklahoma City as "a parking lot."
"People were actually driving southbound in the northbound lanes to try and get out of the way," said storm chaser Dave Holder.
J. Marshall Shepherd, president of the American Meteorological Society and director of the Atmospheric Sciences Program at the University of Georgia, said Saturday that should not have occurred.