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Windsor Tornado - June 17, 1946
The story of the Windsor tornado has some interesting stories within the main story. Of particular note is the fact that the newspaper the following day doesn't have the Windsor Star Banner across the top of the page but rather - The Detroit News. Below the headline is a brief note - To the Readers of The Windsor Star -
"Crippled by the terrible disaster which struck Windsor last night, The Windsor Star is enabled today to bring news of the holocaust to its readers through the kindly co-operation of The Detroit News."
When the extent of the damage became known, and when it was apparent that the power failure would prevent The Star being published, The News placed its facilities at The Star's disposal.
"This edition has been especially for the regular readers of The Star and contains the news and pictures of the disaster gathered by the combined staffs of The News and The Star."
The tornado event has some other striking points of interest as well. For instance, in one instance a woman saved her three children by taking them out of the house and having them lie flat in a ditch. This is something that Environment Canada still endorses when no other suitable shelter can be found.
In another instance a man tries to outrun the tornado but it catches up with him, then veers off narrowly missing him. Even today, we suggest that people not try to outrun tornados, but rather move away from them at right angles where ever possible.
Throughout the accounts I read, I didn't see any quotes or references from eye-witnesses who said they had heard the sound of a train or locomotive. In most cases the accounts were similar in saying that it struck quickly and with great fury. There was hardly time for anyone to snap a picture but incredibly someone was prepared and caught some images of the actual funnel.
As in many cases then and now, the tornado struck late in the afternoon, - in fact it occurred at 6 o'clock and lasted just a few minutes.
There's no way to really tell for sure now what strength on the Fujita scale this tornado reached, but some of the pictures give a haunting clue. In one of the pictures a complete block foundation was removed from the ground where a building once stood. The Fujita scale was developed by Dr. Fujita to help measure the intensity of tornado strength. Here is how the scale breaks down:
Environment Canada wishes to thank the Windsor Star for allowing us to re-print some of the accounts from the June 18th edition. They also were instrumental in supplying most of the photos and were extremely cooperative with our request for information.
Candles, Lamps Mobilized as City Plunged in GloomCourtesy of the Windsor Star
Co-operation was the keynote of Monday night's disastrous tornado which struck fast and furious, leaving a wide path of destruction in its wake.
When it became evident that Windsor and vicinity would be without hydro for at least 12 hours and possibly longer, every effort was made to commandeer all possible flashlights and coal oil lamps which could be used satisfactorily in the three Windsor hospitals.
The Windsor Daily Star editorial room was the "calling station" where three members of the staff called owners of all hardware stores. In every case, no time was lost in getting the lamps to the place most needed. In some cases, where proprietors were unable to take their lamps to hospitals, Star trucks and private cars were used to pick up and deliver the borrowed lamps.
Within fifteen minutes at Grace Hospital, two cardboard cartons of flashlights, at least six large lanterns and quite a few lamps borrowed from the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Detroit arrived to be put into use in the emergency.
In other places throughout the city, people were reading their newspapers and feeling their way around the house by candlelight.
Destruction Complete in Wake of Twister - Date June 18, 1946
Courtesy of the Windsor Star
Orlo Farnham owes his life to the fact that he looked out of his new showroom and warehouse window just as the twister started on its drive of desolation. He yelled to his wife, Jean, who also was in the building, and they both got outside just as the fury of the wind leveled the concrete block building to the ground.
The Farnham home, a dozen feet to the west of the showroom was untouched.
Saw House Picked Up
"I saw the spout pick up a house on the other side of the tracks and hurl it into the air." Mr. Farnham told the Star, "I yelled to my wife when I saw it headed our way and just as we got outside it struck the building. If we had been inside we would have been killed."
Bus Driver Saw It
Leo Dagenias, S. W. & A. bus driver on the Amherstburg run, was driving towards Windsor when he saw the ominous pillar of wind curling up from the direction of the Detroit River out at La Salle.
"I saw the spout and kept driving towards Windsor. But when I thought it was getting too close I stopped the bus right in front of the Farnham home. Then it passed just a few feet in front of the bus, ripping up the Farnham's building."
Mathew Flockhart, 502 Pierre Avenue, and Edmund Davlin, 891 Gladstone Avenue, were driving towards Amherstburg along Malden Road when they noticed the tornado approaching.
"I saw it gaining on me, so I stepped the car up to 60 miles an hour and still it gained on me. It caught up to the car and started bouncing it around the road. Then it veered off from the Malden Road. I stopped the car and watched it tear down houses and fences and trees."
First Eye-Witness Tells Graphic Story
by Thomas Brophey
"I've seen them in the west, but never one like that one," declared W.H. Coyle, 417 Oak Avenue, who gave a graphic account of the twister's sweep through the Brighton Beach area and the harrowing scenes that followed in it's wake. He was probably the first on the scene at Seven Mile Road.
Like A Flashlight
"Outside the cone, it seemed to be dark which made the cone in the centre look something like a flashlight. As it picked up a house, it seemed as though there was going to be a fire - and then the terrific wind seemed to smother the fire."
Mr. Coyle said of finding one battered body of a little girl. "The body was nude." And he saw Mr. And Mrs. Jones, of the Seven Mile Road. "The bodies appeared to those of mummies, with the features depressed instead of bloated, and the skin had taken on a sickly purplish hue."
Mr. Coyle met one woman who explained how she had saved her three children, by taking them out of the house and putting them in a ditch, throwing herself on top of them. Her house was completely destroyed, but her action had saved the lives of her children.
"I was standing at the corner of Chippewa and Sandwich," Mr. Coyle said, "when I saw it come in off the river, the other side of the Westwood Hotel."
"We started down Sandwich Street and when we hit the C.I.L. plant the fire trucks were there - they had stopped there, I guess, because of the C.I.L. tanks."
"Then an ambulance came along, tearing through and it went directly west. When we hit the Seven Mile Road, following it we could still see the cone-shape on the left."
Saw Jones Family
"We saw the Jones family first. The mother and father were about 20 feet apart. The mother was dead and my wife mentioned that the father seemed to be living. He lifted his arm and tried to move, but he was all black."
"A sailor and another lad found two of the children crawling through the field. They picked up one boy whose leg seemed to be chewed off and the blood was running all over them."
Lost Their Roof
"It was pathetic when a 16-year old boy, one of the Jones family, got off a bus and asked where his father and mother were. Someone pointed to them lying on the ground, but he seemed to dazed and said they weren't his parents. And so they led him away."
Another witness to the tragedy of the Jones family was Mrs. Orlo Farnham, of the massey Harris Agency on Seven Mile Road.
"Neither my husband nor I were touched as the roof was torn off. We ran outside and were immediately confronted with the blackened bodies of the Jones family. Mr. Jones was lying with his clothes torn and his right shoe stripped off."
"I rushed to our phone and called the ambulance and police. We found the body of a small baby in the ditch by the road," she added.
Mrs. Farnham was dazed and shocked when she spoke.
Though the roof of the Farnham agency was stripped and the cement blocks wall partially caved in, cans of alcohol and containers of oil still stood on the top shelf which had originally been directly under the roof.
The Farnham family also operates a riding stable, which is immediately behind the store. The roof of the stable was carried off with the twister, but the horses were not injured.
The Farnham home is about 20 feet from the home of Nelson Jones, which was spread over the landscape, and carried three of the Jones family to their death.