General Motors to Reopen Tornado-Damaged Plant

Wed June 25, 2003 - National Edition

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) General Motors plans to resume rolling sport utility vehicles off the assembly line June 30 at its tornado-damaged plant.

The plant has been shut down since May 8, when a twister toppled two cooling towers, plowed through the power station and shredded much of the paint shop into scraps of metal.

Contractors have used giant stadium lights to work around-the-clock in a race to rebuild the plant, which makes GMC Envoy XLs and Chevrolet TrailBlazer EXTs.

Body shop and paint shop autoworkers returned to the plant this week, spokeswoman Kathy Oden said June 24. The remainder of the work force, including general assembly employees, will return to work June 30, she said.

GM held a barbecue to celebrate the work of hundreds of contractors who put the plant back together in record time, Oden said.

In the days after the twister, GM officials thought the plant might not reopen until September.

GM hasn’t released an estimate of storm damage to the 4-million-sq.-ft. plant, but a corporate lobbyist put the figure at between $60 million and $100 million. The company has business insurance to cover lost production and damage.

GM cut production forecasts by 20,000 for the second quarter because of the Oklahoma City plant, which accounts for less than 3 percent of GM’s North American production of 110,000 vehicles per week.

Most of the plant’s nearly 3,000 employees have been off work since the tornado. General assembly workers returned for one week at the end of May to finish about 500 SUVS stranded on the assembly line.