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Weather history: Remembering the Goderich tornado

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Digital writers
theweathernetwork.com

Wednesday, August 21, 2013, 1:50 PM -

It's been two years since an F3 tornado tore through the picturesque community of Goderich, leaving it looking like a war zone.

The tornado

It wasn't your typical Sunday in Goderich, Ontario and it's one that thousands of residents will never forget. 

On August 21, 2011, at about 3:45 pm, a tornado warning was issued for the community.

"I was just ready to start preparing supper and I went into the kitchen and I turned on The Weather Network," recalls Cathy Cove, Goderich resident and co-editor of 'Not Like Any Other Sunday'.

"If you are in Goderich or Stratford or Mitchell, we're going to be asking you to take immediate cover. Environment Canada has issued tornado warnings for these areas," she heard The Weather Network's Natalie Thomas say.

"And so I turned off my stove, grabbed my pets and family and we went into my son’s closet down in the basement," says Cove. 

Within minutes, damage reports began flowing out of the area Environment Canada later confirmed that the tornado that tore through was an F3 with winds reaching 280 km/h. The twister travelled for about 20 km in a southeasterly direction before eventually fizzling out.

Goderich lost between 40 and 50 heritage homes and buildings, some dating back to the 1880s.

Goderich lost between 40 and 50 heritage homes and buildings, some dating back to the 1880s.

The damage

According to officials, it was the worst tornado damage to hit Ontario since 1996.

Buildings were leveled and homes completely destroyed.

Tragically, one man who was working in the salt mine at the time was killed. Stormhunter Mark Robinson described the scene as looking like a war zone. 

"It reminded me strongly of what I saw in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath," he recalls.

Goderich lost between 40 and 50 heritage homes and buildings, some dating back to the 1880s. Several businesses were also destroyed including that of John Jeffery & Son.

"My husband worked there since he was a teenager," said one woman who choked back the tears after first surveying the wreckage. "Everyone in town knows John Jeffery & Son. It's just very heartbreaking," said another woman.

Seventy-five percent of the downtown commercial buildings sustained damage and most were unable to access their property for almost two weeks.

More than 1000 trees were uprooted, 92 in the downtown core. The cost of tornado damage topped $100 million. The tornado itself accounted for about $75 million in damages with the remainder sustained by rains that fell three days later.


Tune into The Weather Network on TV for more coverage on the 2011 Goderich tornado.

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