Two years after tornado, Goderich recovery nears completion
Looking around downtown Goderich today, it’s nearly impossible to tell the town was hit by a deadly and devastating tornado two years ago.
But that was the case on Aug. 21, 2011, when an F3 tornado touched down and swept through the town.
Hundreds of homes and businesses were destroyed, 37 people were injured, and one person – 61-year-old Normand Laberge, who was working in the Sifto salt mine – was killed.
Nearly $130 million in damage was done across the town.
At Culbert’s Bakery in the downtown, owner Darin Culbert says there wasn’t much structural damage, but rhymes off a list of issues that needed immediate attention.
“(We had) windows broken, a lot of water damage, siding blown off, roofs damaged, stuff like that,” he tells CTV News.
After nine months, the bakery reopened.
Any fears about long-term damage to Goderich’s economy subsided around the same time, when another tourist season began and most visitors seemed willing to look past the few areas that remained visibly damaged.
One block downtown remains in its tornado-hit state, but Shewfelt says matters were complicated by the block having five different owners and reconstruction is expected to start this fall.
Elsewhere in the downtown, 164 trees have been planted in Courthouse Park to replace the trees that were demolished by the storm, which was accompanied by winds of up to 300 km/h.
Shewfelt says it’s only one part of a larger effort to clean up the tornado damage while simultaneously preparing Goderich for the future.
“We shouldn’t stop here,” he says.
“In a lot of small towns the main streets are dying, and we have a chance to turn that type of thing around.”
But for some people, the tornado was a sign that the time had come to leave town.
Marie Park and her husband were at their North Street home with the storm hit.
“I was sitting at the table peeling potatoes and I heard this ungodly noise,” she says.
“It sounded like a helicopter above our house. We didn’t realize it was a tornado.”
A few months later, with the memory of the tornado still in their minds, the Parks – lifelong residents of Goderich – packed up and moved to Lucknow.
“I just couldn’t take it. I thought if one can hit, more can come,” says Park.
Shewfelt says the Parks aren’t the only story he’s heard of residents leaving town after the tornado, but points out that new residents have also moved into Goderich.
“For people who were ready to get out, the tornado may have precipitated them leaving a few years early,” he says.
Unlike in 2012, there is was no formal ceremony scheduled for Wednesday to mark the anniversary of the tornado.