Tornado like a bomb, says resident

Section: 
News

By Barb McKay

 

The centre of Goderich looks like a war zone, said a local resident and business owner Monday.

 

 

Goderich's downtown square was a scene of destruction Sunday afternoon. (Chris MacDonald photo)

 

 

Peter Wick, who owns West Street Willy’s in downtown Goderich, returned home from a camping trip with his children in Kincardine, to find both his home and his restaurant damaged. His wife, Pauline, in the family’s home at the time the tornado hit Sunday, took shelter in the basement.

 

“She got down to the basement and the roof was blown off,” Wick said.

 

There were large, mature trees on the property that were ripped out and tossed into the house and onto a vehicle in the driveway. Downtown, the family business is a mess of shattered glass and rubble.

 

“We got a double whammy, our house and our business,” said Wick, who formerly owned the Pelican’s Roost restaurant in Kincardine. “We were right in the line of fire.”

 

He had a hard time believing what he was seeing when he went to inspect his restaurant.

“It’s like a nuclear bomb went off,” he said.

 

It took just a couple of short minutes for a tornado to completely devastate the town of Goderich. Much of Ontario’s self-proclaimed “prettiest town” was reduced to rubble after what Environment Canada described as a Fujita scale two or scale three tornado ripped through the town at approximately 4 p.m., leaving a Lucknow man dead and dozens of others injured. Goderich mayor Deb Shewfelt has requested a state of emergency, prompting Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty to activate the province’s emergency plan to provide help to the community.

 

 

A reader submitted this photo from Goderich Monday afternoon.

 

A tornado is often described, by those who experience it, as a freight train roaring through an area, leaving a path of destruction of behind. The tornado that hit Goderich could more likely be compared to a jetliner, as a scale three tornado can reach speeds of up to 330 kilometres per hour.

 

There was little warning, aside from dark clouds and the threat of a severe thunderstorm, before a massive twister tore the top floors off buildings, shattered windows, flipped cars and snapped trees like matchsticks.

 

The area around the harbour was hit first, levelling the grain elevator’s dome and a portion of the salt mines. Norman Laberge of Lucknow was killed while working in the salt mines, when the twister hit. The tornado then made its way up West Street and into The Square, where it levelled all the trees and ripped apart businesses and homes.

 

Jack and Chris MacDonald, of Ripley, decided to go to dinner in Goderich Sunday and left home about 4 p.m. When they arrived, they found destruction. The tornado had gone through about the time they had left Ripley and police had still not blocked off the streets when the Macdonalds drove into town. That night, natural gas service to roughly 3,300 customers in the area was shut off because of possible gas leaks. Monday morning most roads in and out of Goderich were closed and much of the town was without power.

Both the Municipality of Kincardine and the Township of Huron-Kinloss extended offers of assistance to Goderich.

 

“The Municipality of Kincardine has offered support to Goderich as they deal with the aftermath of the tornado that hit the area yesterday,” acting CAO Donna MacDougall said in an email to The Independent Monday. “At this time, they are in the midst of assessing the damage and organizing themselves. No municipal resources from Kincardine have been deployed to the area at this point, however, we remain available to help as we can.”

 

Huron-Kinloss’ director of facilities and recreation, Mike Fair, said the township is ready to help, when needed, but showing up on the scene unannounced would only add to the confusion.

“One of the most difficult parts of any emergency is trying to manage and co-ordinate,” he said. “It’s very difficult for people to just show up.”

 

Kincardine resident Russ O’Handley called The Independent to find out how he could volunteer to help with clean up efforts in Goderich. He said he imagines a lot of people will be ready to step up when they are needed.

 

“You want to go over and help those people, and they’re going to need help,” he said. “Those people are our neighbours and we should help. It’s only 20 miles away, it could have happened to us.”

 

Kincardine CIBC has organized a food drive to help out victims of the tornado. Non-perishable food items can be dropped off at the CIBC branch on Queen Street and at Sobeys.

 

It may be interesting to note that a tornado touched down in Durham two years ago, almost to the day. The tornado hit the municipality Aug. 20, 2009, at about 4 p.m., killing one person.


This is devastating,the

This is devastating,the tornado indeed left a path of destruction behind.