Haliburton Highlands, ON (DONE)

80KM SWATH OF DESTRUCTION as forest, homes, cottages & camps damaged & destroyed

The first of three damaging tornadoes to strike Ontario on June 16, this powerful tornado touched down at Paul Lake and tracked for 80km across the Haliburton and Algonquin Highlands. After its initial touchdown at around 2:30pm, the tornado crossed Brady Lake and destroyed one cottage there. Widening to 300m, it passed north of Hindon Hill, decimating forest, and then reached its maximum width, 500m, as it crossed Kushog Lake and Boshkung Lake.

On the east side of Bushkong, the tornado struck Echo Bay and the north end of the village of Carnarvon. There, cottages were swept from their foundations, houses destroyed and ‘95% of trees flattened’. In an exclusive area of homes known as Sherwood Forest, one five-bedroom home was reportedly swept entirely away, leaving only the foundation.

Continuing on, the tornado moved across the south end of Beech Lake, ‘wrecking’ cottages and injuring a man. It was reported that he was thrown more than 20m up a hill from the lake’s edge, landing on the remains of a small cottage that had been destroyed. To the east of there, the tornado narrowly avoided disaster, passing just 5km north of the centre of the town of Haliburton. As it tracked along Tulip Road, it narrowed slightly to 400m but remained strong, with ‘60% of trees flattened’ and two barns destroyed.

Next to be hit was Hurricane Lake, where 300 music students at Camp White Pine watched as the tornado passed to their north. The tornado churned by across the lake, causing extensive damage at the Integra Foundation’s Camp Towhee, a facility for children with learning disabilities.  The camp was largely unoccupied at the time, however two employees who were on-site ‘managed to free themselves’ from the wreckage and escaped unharmed. Towhee was forced to close for the summer due to the severity of the damage; almost every tree on the grounds was snapped or uprooted and cabins were blown away and destroyed.

The tornado continued through the heavy forests of the area, downing ‘80% to 90%’ of trees as it went. More cottages were damaged and destroyed as it hit Drag Lake and Elephant Lake, before it finally dissipated near Maynooth. In total the tornado had been on the ground for 80km, damaging more than 99 homes and cottages and leaving another 26 destroyed.

Early estimates conservatively placed the damage at $4,000,000. Thankfully it occurred early in the season, before large numbers of cottagers and campers took to the lakes for the season; had it occurred on a weekend or during the height of the summer holidays, the number of injuries or even deaths would have almost certainly been higher.

The other tornadoes that touched down on this day were an F1 at Curries and an F2 that passed from Elphin to Drummon Centre.