First, a thank you. There have been more visits to the blog this month than in any previous… I suspect that’s in part a function of interest in the recent tornado in our area… and it certainly merits attention! In fact I’m finishing the month with an extended essay on the topic… apologies in advance because it repeats many of the things mentioned previously. It (the essay) is actually my submission to a group who is compiling people’s experiences with the tornado and its aftermath into a book… so I wanted to incorporate some of the things I’d touched on earlier here in the blog. But first… can’t get enough of dog pictures?
As for the tornado, I hope this entry finishes my ruminations on the subject and next month I will get back to a more musical slant… we’ll see…
In retrospect I suppose that the waterspout we observed was a harbinger of what was to come. We had returned late Saturday from a baby shower in the Toronto area and had picked up our dogs from the kennel that early Sunday morning. A lakeside stroll seemed to be appropriate for a day that was threatening rain. As we walked along the shore Jane observed a peculiar cloud formation out over the lake well to the south which formed a finger pointing down to the lake itself. We soon realized we were witnessing a waterspout, a phenomenon we had previously only seen in photographs. We were at once both fascinated and somewhat uneasy. After a while it dissipated and so we concluded our walk and journeyed home.
Several days after the tornado had torn through the heart of Goderich we returned to that shoreline south of town. This time, as we wandered along the beach, I started to notice a large number of gull feathers both bobbing on the waves and washed up on the shore. At first I thought only of some kind of avian civil war but, as we continued and the feathery debris stretched before us it became clear that the battle had not been among birds but rather (we suspect) a cataclysmic encounter between flock and whirlwind. And I remember thinking at that moment that it was a perfect example of an unanticipated consequence… a result of the tornado which I hadn’t considered.
Not that it was the first instance by any means. Shortly after the tornado passed we rushed out to check on our neighbours and property. The magnitude of the destruction hit us as soon as we stepped out the door to the sounds of sirens wailing and sight of fallen trees and hydro poles. A walk across the street revealed that more than trees were felled by the fury of the wind. The neighbourhood drug store’s windows and signage were destroyed along the length of the building and the huge air conditioning unit normally housed on the roof of the store sat smashed in the parking lot. Looking further along the street we could see that the nearby bank was extensively damaged and that the shell of Victoria Street United Church resembled the ruins seen in old photos of the bombing aftermath in London during the Second World War. By taking a few short steps in the other direction we were met with the equally surreal sight of a heavily damaged Goderich Grill, the adjacent collapsed Burger Bar, rubble that had once been a car wash and the credit union building with a portion of its roof torn away. There was far more to be seen but the smell of natural gas in the air offered ample warning that we should return home. Once there we walked around the house and began to take stock of the immediate damage. It soon became evident that our problems were relatively few. A fallen section of fence. Two broken windows. Damage to a portion of the eaves, siding and capping. Most of our potted and hanging plants were unscathed (save for some hail damage) and objects like chairs and tables were untouched. Oddly the one yard decoration which had mysteriously disappeared was a wooden sign gifted to us which had read- Leave room in your garden for the fairies to play. It remains lost to this day and we’ve speculated that it was snatched by some disgruntled lawn gnome. In its place we discovered on the ground a twisted fluorescent light fixture which had been blown into our yard from parts unknown- gnome again?
Satisfying ourselves that there was nothing critical to be addressed at our own house, we walked to the end of our block and surveyed the ravaged landscape across Victoria Street. Among the debris strewn over the lawn at Tim Horton’s where we stood was a heavy metal object which I recognized as a chimney cap. A lot like ours, in fact. A brisk walk back to our house and a glance along the roof line revealed that it was indeed our chimney cap and that it had seemingly popped out like a cork from a champagne bottle during the tornado and landed a half a block away. We retrieved it, relatively undamaged, and set it on our own lawn for future replacement.
Gull feathers. Found light fixtures. Disappearing fairy signs. Errant chimney caps. A tree in our yard which decided to topple over two days after the tornado. All small but unanticipated consequences of that fateful afternoon.
As we walked about the centre of town over the next few days (an act necessitated by dog ownership), we were in awe of the devastation around us. St. Patrick and West Streets. Harbour Park (two weeks earlier home to the annual Celtic Festival). The beachfront. The Sifto plant. Jeffrey’s Lumber Yard. The houses. The trees. The town centre was off limits but distant glimpses and internet photos provided further evidence, if needed, to the destructive course of the tornado. Yet the thing which also became clear was that, with all the desolation in evidence, it could have been so much worse. One death was too much and related injuries numerous. But, given the enormity of the damage, one might have expected far more casualties and loss of life. That was the miracle hidden in the rubble. An unanticipated consequence, you might say.
And now, about about a month later, we can only marvel at the dedication of workers and volunteers and the intensity of the cleanup effort. Stories of cooperation, support and assistance are being told by many of us. Messages of hope and appreciation are spray painted on the sides of damaged homes. There are many pitfalls, problems and pressures facing the town in the rebuilding effort. Some parts of the landscape have been changed forever. Some aspects will require months and years of commitment to restore. Perhaps the most important consequence, anticipated or not, in the wake of that September 21st tornado is the determination that it must and will be done.
(If you missed the pictorial content of the tornado, just go back to previous posts…)