Severe storm wreaks havoc in southwestern Ontario

Herb Marshall had only ever seen a storm like the one that swept across this southwestern Ontario town in the movies.

Police examine a crushed vehicle after a severe storm ripped through Goderich

Police examine a crushed vehicle after a severe storm ripped through Goderich

GODERICH, Ont. — Herb Marshall had only ever seen a storm like the one that swept across this southwestern Ontario town in the movies.

Downtown businesses, century old buildings and several churches lost their roofs and upper floors Sunday as a powerful storm ripped through Goderich.

Images show downed power lines, trees and debris strewn across streets, while witnesses described cars being picked up and thrown like toys.

Police said there are reports of multiple injuries.

Marshall, the owner of the Park House Bar and Restaurant, was on the third floor of the building with his wife when the storm swept through the town on the shores of Lake Huron.

“(The storm) came up the hill off the lake, by us to the north and just took everything with it,” Marshall said. “I believe I saw a garbage bin up in the air going by.

“I’ve only ever seen this in the movies.”

Environment Canada issued a tornado warning for the area just prior to the storm and confirmed at least one injury. The agency will be sending out a storm damage team to investigate the area on Monday.

London OPP Sgt. Dave Rektor said the damage is widespread.

“We have extensive damage to the downtown core and we have a report of injuries,” Rektor said. “I don’t have the conditions of anybody who’s injured at this point.”

Police have blocked traffic from entering the downtown core.

“We’re going to be going through the buildings and looking for people and check just to make sure everybody’s accounted for,” Rektor said.

Cassandra Phillips-Grande, 16, was in a coffee shop in the town square when the wind started to pick up.

“We saw tables and chairs outside of the cafe flying and then saw an SUV roll like a tumbleweed right in front,” she said, adding that everyone in the shop moved to the back of the building.

“About two seconds later we heard this really big crash and the roof collapsed in the spot where we had all been. When we went outside we saw that some apartments had collapsed right in front of the cafe.”

Phillips-Grande said she tried to help some of the people who were injured.

“We saw some people with gashes and one person had a brick fall on their head but no one was hurt too badly,” she said.

Sean Carver watched the storm approach from his patio.

“The storm was quick, it blew through and it was gone,” he said.

“The so-called scary part is literally only about two minutes, half an instant, and then the winds go back down to about 80 kilometres an hour, but you know you’re safe again.”

He said residents are helping with the clean up.

“We cleared out the streets ourselves, we just walked out there to get chainsaws and started clearing it,” Carver said.

“All you hear is chainsaws. There’s tractors driving around because you can’t drive anywhere.

“The town actually comes together and everybody starts helping everybody. There’s kids walking down the street with hack saws, teenagers just helping anybody that needs help.”

Donna Lovell, a waitress the Candlelight Restaurant and Tavern who has lived in Goderich all her life, said the storm struck quickly.

“We didn’t see anything and then all you hear is sirens. From what I understand it sort of literally tore the town in half.”

She said most of the destruction is in the area of Victoria Street.

“The roof of the church, I heard, is on the highway. There used to be a restaurant called the Burger Bar, there’s no longer a Burger Bar,” Lovell said. “I heard most of the (downtown) square has been damaged, all of the trees are down on the square — there’s a lot of old trees up there. So there’s major repairs, and they’re not allowing anyone up on the square because there’s a lot of gas leaks.”

Candlelight owner Gus Balkouras said his business is without hydro, but otherwise unscathed.

“I feel terrible. Terrible, especially with the people who have damage up town and destroyed properties,” he said. “Mother Nature sometimes, it’s very difficult to predict what will happen.”

Andrea Ross, who works at the Cedar Lodge Motel in Goderich, says the storm was the most violent she has ever experienced, as the skies became very dark with huge clouds.

“I’ve heard a lot of the buildings are half gone or fully gone,” Ross said. “It’s a pretty big mess downtown.

“A lot of buildings are missing and down and a lot of trees are down. I’ve heard there are gas leaks as well as the street behind us, so it’s pretty bad.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta is on pace to administer more than 300,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses per week, according to the provincial government. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
One million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in Alberta

Alberta hit a milestone in the fight against COVID-19 this week. As… Continue reading

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre’s expansion project is still a high priority, says Alberta Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Interior work will start this year on Red Deer hospital project, says infrastructure minister

‘We are committed. This is a top priority,’ says Presad Panda

Even with recent restrictions due to rising COVID-19 variant case levels, about 95 per cent of businesses are open in Alberta, said Premier Jason Kenney. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Consistent pandemic policy has helped Alberta, premier says

Alberta fatality rate lower than Canadian average

Richie Laryea of Toronto FC, left, and Jean Meneses of Mexico's Leon battle for the ball during a CONCACAF Champions League soccer match in Leon, Mexico, in Leon, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. Toronto FC hosts Club Leon in the second leg of their Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League round-of-16 tie holding a valuable away goal after a 1-1 draw last week in Mexico. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mario Armas
Injury-riddled Toronto FC dispatches Club Leon in CONCACAF Champions League play

Injury-riddled Toronto FC dispatches Club Leon in CONCACAF Champions League play

Winnipeg Jets' Dylan DeMelo (2) skates the puck around Ottawa Senators' Thomas Chabot (72) as he holds off Winnipeg Jets' Mason Appleton (22) during first-period NHL action in Ottawa on Wednesday, April 14, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Winnipeg Jets score two third-period goals to secure 3-2 victory over Ottawa Senators

Winnipeg Jets score two third-period goals to secure 3-2 victory over Ottawa Senators

Toronto Raptors forward Chris Boucher (25) shoots over San Antonio Spurs forward Keldon Johnson (3) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Anunoby, Siakam rally Raptors past Spurs 117-112

Anunoby, Siakam rally Raptors past Spurs 117-112

John Furlong pitches a broader B.C. bid for 2030 Winter Games

John Furlong pitches a broader B.C. bid for 2030 Winter Games

New York Yankees starting pitcher Corey Kluber throws against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in Dunedin, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
Bichette hits 2nd homer in 9th, Blue Jays beat Yankees 5-4

Bichette hits 2nd homer in 9th, Blue Jays beat Yankees 5-4

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Luguentz Dort (5) goes to the basket as Utah Jazz forward Jarrell Brantley (5) defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Salt Lake City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Rick Bowmer
Undrafted Montreal native Dort continues to smash “glass ceilings” in NBA

Undrafted Montreal native Dort continues to smash “glass ceilings” in NBA

A man wearing a protective mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walks past banners for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Wednesday, April 14, 2021, to mark 100 days before the start of the Summer Games. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Eugene Hoshiko
Rings on the Horizon: Tokyo Summer Olympics hit 100 days out marker

Rings on the Horizon: Tokyo Summer Olympics hit 100 days out marker

Lethbridge Police Chief Shahin Mehdizadeh speaks during a news conference in Lethbridge, Alta., on Wednesday, March 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Rossiter
‘Right path:’ Lethbridge police release improvement plan in wake of controversies

‘Right path:’ Lethbridge police release improvement plan in wake of controversies

Most Read