Norwich, ON F1 Tornado of June 2, 1998

Oxford - Brant

This tornado formed at around 4:05 pm to the east of Salford. The first damage occurred at a farm on McBeth Road, where a well-built barn was torn apart and destroyed. It then tracked toward the southeast, striking more farms as it approached Oxford Road 13 south of Holbrook. Driving along the road was one witness who reportedly had to abandon his car to take cover in a ditch as the tornado passed, churning with the debris of a destroyed barn. Along this early portion of its path, the tornado caused extensive damage to rural farms, destroying crops, barns and outbuildings.

As it approached town, many residents of Norwich watched and photographed the tornado, a fat stovepipe that was filled with debris. The tornado entered the west side of town north of Main Street, then caused extensive damage through several blocks as it tracked along North Court Street and South Court Street. Trees were twisted, snapped and uprooted, crashing down on houses and vehicles. Power poles fell across streets and homes, their lines tangled and snapped. Dozens of houses were damaged with windows shattered, siding ripped away and portions of roofs torn off.

At one house that was particularly hard hit, the homeowner, Karen Vermeersch, was asleep on the couch and awoke seconds before the tornado struck. She snatched her infant son and managed to make it to the top of the basement stairs just as windows started exploding and debris blasted the house. Most of the roof was ripped off of the home, but the family emerged from the wreckage unscathed.

On Stover Street North, the tornado caused extensive damage at the Holy Trinity Anglican Church, a pretty and iconic white clapboard church that was built in 1867. The bell tower and steeple were ripped off, stained glass windows were shattered and the congregation hall at the rear of the building was demolished. Pews and bibles were picked up and scattered, mixed with the debris of the ruined building. The church piano ended up near the street across the property, lying on its back, with a sheet of music still fastened in the instrument’s holder.

Moving on, the tornado passed through more blocks of homes and then struck the Netherlands Reformed Congregation Church, as well as the Rehoboth Christian School on the east side of town. At each, windows were shattered, sections of roofing were torn off and debris strewn about. At Rehoboth where students had recently been dismissed for the day, a janitor saw the tornado advancing and burst into a faculty meeting to warn the teachers to seek shelter; fortunately none were injured. Damage to both buildings was collectively estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

As it exited the south end of town, the tornado tore the roof off of the DeGroote-Hill auto dealership and damaged over a dozen cars in the lot. It then destroyed buildings at several tobacco farms outside of town before dissipating. In total, 99 buildings were damaged, six of them severely. The tornado was initially rated at F2 but later downgraded to a high-end F1. Damage was estimated at $2,500,000.

This was one of four tornadoes to touch down in Southern Ontario on June 2. The others:

Figure 1 depicts the surface observations at 2:00 pm EDT, which depicts a strong low pressure over Lake Huron with a stationary front extending into central Ontario/Quebec and a cold front crossing the Great Lakes. The cold front became the focus for intense thunderstorms in the afternoon/evening hours of June 2nd.

Figure 1. Surface analysis at 18Z on June 2, 1998 showing mean sea-level pressure (MSLP) contours, surface observations, fronts and pressure centres (WPC, 2017)

According to Environment and Climate Change Canada (2018), an F1 tornado touched down at 4:05 pm EDT near Norwich, ON. The path and width of the tornado was not documented by ECCC. The tornado caused no fatalities, injuries or property damage.


NWS Weather Prediction Center Surface Analysis Archive. (2017). Surface analysis 18Z Tue Jun 2 1998. Retrieved from:

Environment and Climate Change Canada Data. (2018). Canadian National Tornado Database: Verified Events (1980-2009) – Public. Retrieved from: