At about 3:45 pm on Sunday, a tornado warning was issued for Goderich. Radar images showed a supercell with a large hook and strong rotation moving off Lake Huron toward the town.
Within minutes, damage reports began flowing out of the area. Buildings were levelled, homes destroyed. Tragically, one man who was working in the salt mine at the time was killed. Police identified the 61-year-old victim as Norman Laberge of Lucknow, Ontario.
At least 37 other people suffered minor injuries and Goderich Mayor Delbert Shewfelt declared a state of emergency shortly after.
Environment Canada confirmed the tornado was an F3 on the Fujita Scale and ranged in width from 200 m to 1.5 km as it ripped through the town. Winds within the tornado reached 280 km/h and the twister travelled about 20 km in a southeasterly direction before fizzling out.
“As far as what we usually see in Canada, this is very bad,” said Environment Canada's Dave Sills after touring the region Monday.“We haven't seen damage like this in Ontario since 1996.”
Trees and debris litter the street and the historical downtown area is completely destroyed. “In Centre Square now and it looks like a war zone. Reminds me strongly of what I saw in Katrina's aftermath,” said Mark Robinson, a meteorologist and Storm Hunter at The Weather Network.
Chris Mei joined Robinson on the ground this week and spoke to Mayor Shewfelt about the destruction.
“I feel very sad. The crown jewel has been destroyed and you see people that have been raised in this town, older people, just cry,” said Mayor Shewfelt in an emotional interview Tuesday.
Goderich residents are heartbroken by the tornado destruction and say it was a horrifying experience. Still, the community is pulling together.
Premier Dalton McGuinty has activated an emergency plan as well.
“We have allocated five million dollars by way of a disaster relief fund to help the folks here in town,” said McGuinty in Goderich Monday.
“And that money can be used to help the municipality with clean-up and recovery costs as well as to help out individuals, homeowners and individuals in cases where their own insurance may not cover damages and losses experienced.”
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With files from Alexandra Pope