Recalling when an Ontario tornado swept two men hundreds of metres into a lake

On this day in weather history, a tornado hit Williams Lake, Ont.

This Day In Weather History is a daily podcast by Chris Mei from The Weather Network, featuring stories about people, communities and events and how weather impacted them.


On Friday, Aug. 15, 1997, at 7:20 p.m. a tornado touched down near Desboro, Ont., 25 km south of Owen Sound. Soon after the tornado formed it destroyed a farm owned by the Dietrich family.

As it struck, the Dietrichs huddled in a cellar. The tornado tore the roof off the house, flattened the farmhouse, and snapped trees across the properties. The tornado also carried away their neighbour's shed.

Williams Lake, Ontario - Courtesy TWN

Williams Lake, Ont. Courtesy of TWN

The Dietrichs hid as the tornado ravaged their property, but they walked away unscathed.

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The tornado continued north, travelling for 21 km. It also hit Williams Lake. The twister caused a lot of damage across Williams Lake, devasting several cottages. Two cottages were swept away, leaving only the foundation.

Rob Howard owned one of those cottages. He and his friend Ken Osborne were blown into a lake over a hundred metres away.

The two waded through debris from the cottage and made their way back to the shore. According to reports, the two men were found wrapped in T-shirts and other articles of clothing. They had used clothes to wrap their cuts and lacerations. Both men were hospitalized but survived the tornado.

Williams Lake, Ontario - Courtesy TWN

Williams Lake, Ont. Courtesy of TWN

To learn more about the Williams Lake tornado, listen to today's episode of "This Day In Weather History."

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