Goderich 'resilient,' mayor says one year after tornado
Published Tuesday, August 21, 2012 8:18AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, August 21, 2012 10:31PM EDT
The mayor of the Ontario town that on Tuesday marked one year since a devastating tornado left a trail of destruction and one person dead, said this first anniversary was a chance to celebrate the lives that have been rebuilt and remind other municipalities of the need to be prepared for such emergencies.
"We said at the start that we're not going to be victims, we're going to be survivors, and I think this morning proves it," Goderich Mayor Deb Shewfelt told CTV’s Canada AM host Marci Ien Tuesday.
He was joined by members of the Lake Huron community of approximately 7,500 in the heart of the town's commercial district. It was an area hard-hit when the tornado touched down just minutes after Environment Canada issuing a warning for the region.
By the time the storm had blown through, its F3 force winds measuring up to 300 km/h had levelled three-quarters of the businesses there, toppled historic buildings, smashed buildings and left cars and debris scattered everywhere.
Thirty-seven people were injured and one person died. The lone victim of the tornado, 61-year-old Norman Laberge, was working at the town's salt mine when the storm blew in off Lake Huron and couldn't reach shelter in time.
He was remembered at a memorial on Saturday that included a tribute from his daughter.
"I'm sad for my family, but I'm mostly sad for my son who's missing his grandfather now,” Jocelyn Laberge said.
Despite that tragedy, Shewfelt says his experience that day proved the importance of being prepared for such emergencies.
"I tell every municipality: Have your emergency control plan, (and then) you need to work that plan," he said, explaining that Goderich had done just that since a near-hurricane level storm ripped through in 1995.
"That's 16 years we practised and practised," Shewfelt said. "When it hit, it just worked as we all wanted and it was totally amazing."
Thanks to a mild winter and approximately $12 million in relief funds, including two-thirds from the province and the balance raised in the community, visible signs of last year's devastation are relatively hard to find.
The tall trees that once dotted the town dubbed Ontario's prettiest community are gone, but houses have been rebuilt and the Chamber of Commerce says 152 of 170 damaged businesses have reopened.
Carolyn Corfield’s family was visiting Goderich when the tornado hit. They were trapped in their car, which was thrown 50 feet.
Corfield had to get help in order to resume driving.
“I had hypnosis done to help me get through it and turn it from something I had experienced into a movie I watched,” she told CTV News.
Her family returned to Goderich for the anniversary.
Local resident Melissa Wormington lost her home to the tornado, as did many of her neighbours.
While new houses stand in her neighbourhood, local residents are still finding debris.
“Here we are a year later,” Wormington told CTV News. “And, you know, two years, five years down the road, still cleaning up from 12 seconds, that’s crazy.”
Hurdles remain, including many people's ongoing struggles with insurers, but Shewfelt is convinced the town will bounce back stronger than ever.
"The public here are very resilient and they've done one great job."
With a report from CTV’s Seamus O’Regan