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Goderich, Ontario: Four months after the tornado

Chris Mei, reporter
December 16, 2011 — It's been four months since an F3 tornado ripped through Goderich, Ontario. We went back to see how the community is recovering.

The town square in Goderich following last August's tornado
The town square in Goderich following last August's tornado

On August 21st, 2o11 the town of Goderich was devastated by a powerful F3 tornado. The Weather Network was there, and we're back almost four months later to get an update on the recovery.

It's still the “prettiest town in Canada” even though many of its heritage buildings could not be saved. We flew over Goderich in a chopper the day after the tornado. We took in the extent of the damage in the air, but on the ground the Heritage Committee would soon face some tough decisions.

“People wanted their heritage buildings saved,” said Jim Rutledge, Heritage Committee co-chair. “In some cases, it was not possible.”

“It's a tough decision to have to vote to say 'tear them down,'” said Keb Crawford of the Heritage Committee. “It's unfortunate, but with the structural engineers reports it's just what we had to do.”

Goderich has lost between 40 and 50 heritage homes and buildings, some dating back to the 1880's. Businesses were also lost, including that of John Jeffery and Son. Harold was one of the first people we spoke to among the ruins of the family-run lumber yard.

“How are you coping with this?” we asked. “Not very good right now. Wondering where to start.”

“He had been here for 65 years,” recalls Rutledge. “The man is broken hearted and his business is gone, his livelihood is gone.”

Pilot Tiffany Hanna died in a helicopter crash in November
Pilot Tiffany Hanna died in a helicopter crash in November

That same day, Deputy Mayor John Grace was surveying the damage in the square a few blocks west.

“It was organized chaos, pandemonium,” he says. “You have to be proud of this community, it’s really rallied. We’ve done really well, it’s impacted our community quite significantly but we are going to be back and we are going to be bigger and better within a year or so.”

Between now and then, the town of Goderich will continue to do battle with not only rebuilding, but with what Lake Huron can shell out weather-wise, including snowbelt-lake-effect snow.

Tiffany Hanna was the pilot who flew us over Goderich. She was killed in a helicopter crash in November.

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