Salem to Lake Belwood, ON F2 Tornado of August 19, 2005

Waterloo - Wellington

This powerful tornado touched down at 1:30 pm and caused damage along a path that was 19.2 km long. It initially touched down in the Salem area, then passed through rural Fergus on the north side of town, just narrowly avoiding what would have been a disastrous direct hit. From there it continued toward and crossed Belwood Lake before dissipating.

As it moved northeast after touching down near Salem, the tornado began tearing through farms, damaging buildings, levelling fields of crops and decimating woodlots with whole swaths of trees snapped off and shorn. Damage along this early portion of the track was mostly F1, however it was building in intensity as it approached the north side of Fergus.

As it neared town, several houses suffered extensive damage as roofs were ripped up, siding torn off, windows shattered and garages blown apart. Several barns were damaged beyond repair, including two which were totally destroyed and swept away.

At one farm owned by Richard and Jeannine Ross, the house had its entire roof ripped off and a large and well-built barn was was demolished; a swath of debris was strewn through nearby fields. Debris was found caught in fences and wrapped around the trunks of denuded trees up to a kilometre away. On the property itself, almost every tree was snapped or uprooted.

As the tornado crossed Highway 6 on the north side of Fergus, two cars that had pulled over to wait out the storm were picked up and thrown. Both of them had all of their windows blown out, were tossed and rolled several times, landing dozens of metres from where they had been parked. One of them came to rest updside down, and both were smashed beyond repair. Somehow the occupants of each vehicle managed to emerge from their shattered vehicles with only minor injuries.

Not far from where the cars were thrown, a large municipal garage and office building was levelled to its foundation and debris thrown for hundreds of metres. Fortunately the building’s two employees had left for the day shortly before it was torn apart.

Figure 1. Doppler radar imagery at 1:30 pm EDT on August 19, 2005 (Source: Meteologix)

The tornado’s final blow was at Belwood Lake. In perhaps the closest call of the day, it passed just behind the Camp Belwood YMCA, totally decimating forest less than a hundred metres from cabins that were filled with campers and staff at the time. Given the total destruction of this hardwood forest adjacent to the camp, there is little question that the cabins would have been severely damaged or destroyed, perhaps even blown away entirely, had they sustained a direct hit. Although a few trees came down onto cabins as the tornado sideswiped the property, everyone escaped unharmed.

Several cottages also sustained tree and structural damage as the tornado crossed the lake before dissipating. This was the last of three tornadoes that touched down in Southern Ontario on August 19, 2005. The others:

Figure 2 depicts the surface observations at 11:00 am EDT, which shows a strong low pressure system over Lake Huron with a warm front extending into southern Ontario and a cold front extending into Michigan. The environment at 11:00 am was already primed for severe thunderstorms in the warm sector (southern Ontario) with 68/66 F dew point spread near Kitchener, which is favourable for tornadoes.

Figure 2. Surface analysis at 15Z on August 19, 2005 showing mean sea-level pressure (MSLP) contours, surface observations, fronts and pressure centres (WPC, 2017)

According to Environment and Climate Change Canada (2018), an F2 tornado touched down at 1:30 pm near Salem, ON. The tornado travelled for 19.2 km with a maximum width of 300 metres. The tornado caused no fatalities, but has caused 3 injuries. The amount of property damage was not documented by ECCC.


NWS Weather Prediction Center Surface Analysis Archive. (2017). Surface analysis 15Z Fri Aug 19 2005. Retrieved from:

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