Leamington, ON

$100M in damage as destructive tornado tears through Leamington neighbourhoods

The Leamington tornado was the fourth, final and most damaging tornado of the night. It touched down on the southwest side of town at Seacliff Drive West, just north of the Lake Erie shoreline, and then swept through several blocks of residential neighbourhood causing a wide swath of destruction that was 7km long.

Extensive damage began immediately as the tornado uprooted, snapped and shore the tops off of trees, sending them toppling onto homes and vehicles. Most of the damage to houses along this first section of the track was peripheral damage caused by the falling trees, though wind and wind-blown debris also caused some light structural damage. At one property in particular, a massive tree crashed through the house and left it totally destroyed. As the tornado approached Fraser Road it ripped through Keepsake Plants, a large horticultural business, leaving the property ravaged. There, large greenhouses had their tensile shells shredded and their structures twisted and crushed. In addition, a two-storey office building collapsed and trees around the property were mangled and snapped.

Continuing on, the tornado moved into more heavily-populated residential sections of town where it inflicted heavy F0 and F1 damage. Houses on James Court were pierced with projectile debris and had their windows shattered, shingles and siding peeled up, as well as small sections of their roofs torn off. At one multiplex apartment building on Rickway Drive, one-third of the roof was torn off and blown away. All through the neighborhoods, hundreds of trees came down, smashing onto homes and vehicles. The tornado ripped through Seacliff Park at the south side of town leaving only the snapped and jagged remains of what once been a shade-filled forest.

On Seacliff Drive East, the tornado caused spectacular damage as it swept through a large commercial plaza filled with service centres, shops and restaurants. Roofing and siding was torn away and thrown, windows were blasted out and light poles toppled. Throughout the complex, debris littered the parking lot and was left hanging from wires and scattered through nearby fields. One business in particular, Great Canadian Oil Change, was particularly hard hit; it was peeled apart, hollowed out and gutted by the winds. A section of roof was ripped off of the nearby Calvary Baptist Church, and an adjacent barn was partially torn apart and collapsed. Down the road at the Erie Shores Golf and Country Club, the tornado caused considerable tree damage as it crossed the north side of the property, and then it ripped apart another greenhouse operation as it exited town.

The tornado continued to move eastward, passing through rural areas along Mersea Road 1 and Mersea Road B, where it damaged trees, homes and barns, and left the farm fields littered with debris. It passed just to the north of Point Pelee National park, and then south of the Hillman Marsh Conservation area as it again approached Lake Erie. Here, in its final moments over land, the tornado inflicted one final blow, blasting apart a small cottage by the shore. The cottage had its roof torn off and blow away, and its exterior walls toppled.

The town was left littered with the debris of trees and houses, and damage from this and the other three tornadoes was placed at over $100 million.

The other tornadoes that occurred during the event included an F0 southwest of Harrow, another F1 south of Harrow, and an F2 southeast of Harrow.