Windsor, ON Detroit, MI Tornado Leaves Ruin, Jun 1946

Tornado Heading Towards Windsor Tornado touches down near Windsor Tornado in Windsor



Windsor, Ont., June 18 -- This western Ontario centre, home of more than 120,000 people, was a paralyzed city today, lightless and powerless, scores of its homes wrecked, prhaps a score of its people dead, and unknown numbers injured.
Through its western areas of Ojibway and Sandwich, travelled in an arc around the southern outskirts of the city, and vanished.
The whole thing took no more than 10 minutes.
Central Windsor itself was not touched. The funnel of atmospheric violence, a pure freak in these northern temperate latitudes, swirled across the river and circled the city. But 13 dead had been identified from Sandwich and Ojibway -- as well as a lesser number on the American side in Detroit's River Rouge -- more than 100 were under treatment in Windsor's hospitals, and the search for the dead and the injured went on in the rubble of suburban homes.
ALl last night, by the light of emergency bulbs kept going on storage batteries, gasoline lamps and old fashioned kerosene lanterns, the hospitals of Windsor cared for the injured brought in from the stricken streets.
Today all Essex county, an agricultural and industrial peninsula of which Windsor is the nerve centre, was without a central source of power.
Drinking water was taken from the Detroit river and put through an emergency chlorination. The filtration plant through which the water-supply ordinarily comes was powerless.
Direct telegraph and telephone lines to Canadian points were down, but communication was possible by way of United States border centres.
Men and women were at supper as it struck Windsor's western outskirts. Some who heard it coming took shelter in their cellars. Many of the killed and injured were caught in the celler of their collapsing houses.
The tornado, which weather bureau officials said travelled more than 250 miles an hour, tore on through the business district of populous River Rouge, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.
Then it zoomed across the Detroit river, the suction of the tornado creating four huge waterspouts.
The terrifying funnel, estimated variously from 20 to 100 feet at its base, sucked nearly everything in a 100-yard swath into its fatal grip.
Sandwich west, Sandwich east, and the outskirts of Windsor were the Canadian communities which recoiled under the full blast of the tornado before it headed for lake St. Clair, where the weather bureau said it was dissipated. Sandwich, formerly a separate municipality, was incorporated along with other towns, into the city of Windsor about 10 years ago.
The weatherman said the tornado ran its course in about 10 minutes.
As the yellowish mass disappeared, both Canadian and American residents began to realize the full extent of the disaster.
On both sides of the border, all available police, firemen, ambulances, doctors, nurses and Red Cross workers were pressed into service to bring succor to the stricken areas.
Windsor and Detroit hospitals were hard-pressed to handle seemingly endless streams of injured, many of whom were dischargegd after first aid treatment without their names being recorded.
Windsor was without electric power or clean water. Chairman A. J. BRIAN, of the city utilities commission, said the water supply was exhausted and warned residents to boil water being drawn directly from the Detroit river.
The storm knocked out the city power station at the outset, and the Detroit Edison company was forced to cut off electricity to the city because of the danger from broken lines. All industry was shut down with the exception of Ford Motor company, which operates its own power.
CHARLES J. ELLISON, Windsor funeral director, said the twister levelled shacks along the water front barely missing three large strike-bound Cleveland steamship line lake ships anchored off shore.
"The area of worst damage extended for a distance of about one and a half to two miles and was about a half-mile wide," ELLISON said. "The storm was accompanied by large hail stones."
"I saw the body of one man which had been blown two blocks from his home. The man's three-year-old daughter lay with the father. She was dead. The mother was taken to Grace hospital with injuries."
Even as Michigan residents administered to their wounded and sought to find temporary shelter for the homeless, it bacame apparent Ontario had taken the worst punishment.
Canadian police reported that the Sandwich area, largely a rural community, had been almost completely flattened.
Tragic stories were unfolded in quick succession as the bodies of 13 victims were recovered and scores of injured were rushed to Windsor hospitals, hard hit by loss of electric power.
Stories of pathos and heroism were intermingled. One man told of seeing a boy lifted off his bicycle and into the air as the tornado hit. The smashed bicycle was foune; the body of the boy was not.
A Canadian mother MRS. JOAN BEAMEN, 19, of Ojibway -- injured as the blast hit her home, gave caesarian birth to a daughter but both died.
DONNA MARIE FOX, daughter of MR. and MRS. RAYMOND FOX, Ojibway, was crushed to death as the tornado ruthlessly ripped apart their home.
Bus drivers turned their vehicles into emergency ambulances to rush victims to hospitals.
Windsor hospital authorities, hard put by the cutoff of electric power, obtained some relief from the federal bureau of investigation in Detroit. F.B.I. agents sped across the river with portable lighting equipment to alleviate the situation.
Telephone and electric light lines on both sides of the border were particular targets of the tornado.
The New York Central railroad reported its Windsor freight yards were turned into shambles. Freight cars were tossed about as if by some giant hand. Roofs were torn off freight buildings. Some box cars were smashed into kindling as the freak wind toyed with them.
Authorities expressed fear that some residents had been pinned in the ruins of their demolished homes and began the probe of the debris.
The Canadian press estimated "15 to 25 and probably more" had lost their lives.
On the Detroit side, the dead included two persons killed by contact with live wires and a third who died of a heart attack.
The wing of a plane identified as part of an American army bomber fell on a house in Windsor in the height of the storm. No other trace of craft was reported.
Several hundred Chrysler corporation workers who were at a meeting discussing strike action adjourned as soon as they got word of the disaster and formed rescue squads to aid Sandwich residents.
DOOLEY COHANE, a Detroit policeman returning from Colchester, Ont., said he saw the tornado approaching when he was driving along the Canadian side of the river, fiver miles south of the Ambassador bridge.
He drove more than 60 miles an hour trying to keep ahead of it, he said, but wasn't able to do so. Debris struck his car as he raced with the wind.
"I saw five or six houses demolished," he said. "When the tornado hit power lines they went up like a flash of lightning. The houses went up like puffs of smoke."
A. L. MOOR, manager of the Windsor public parks, said that Little river was the scene of complete destruction. "I saw remains of a dozen houses with nothing left but the foundations, and walls and furniture reduced to kindling."
Detective CHRISTOPHER PAGET of the Windsor police department said that the freak path of the storm prevented a "tremendous disaster."
"Thank God it didn't hit either Detroit or Windsor," the officer said.
PAGET said he was driving to work in south Windsor about 6 p.m. when he saw the tornado rolling toward him.
"It was like a big yellow volcano, moving fast and spouting houses, farm implements and cars."
There were few persons badly hurt at River Rouge. The fire department had five calls resulting from blazes started by broken power lines.
About 75 persons were in the Lancaster theatre when the storm broke. The theatre was unroofed and the main beam of the structure was broken, but there was no panic.
The theatre roof was lifted about 200 feet into the air and tossed into an intersection, but did no damage to a voting booth set up nearby for today's state primary elections.
The U.S. weather bureau said the tornado was the first to strike the Detroit area since 1916 when a small one twisted into the city.
Velocity of yesterday's twister was not recorded, but its power was terrific, since it picked up houses, cars and heavy steel objects and hurled them high into the air.
MRS. ALBERT R. PERRY of Windsor said at least seven persons were killed near her home. She said they lived in a house across the street from her.
"We saw the house lifted from its foundations," she said.
"It just came rolling and rolling and rolling along. I saw the house go up in the air and I saw the bodies being carried away by the wind. I don't know what became of them."
Within the memory of Windsor's oldest residents, it was the first tornado that ever hit the city.
Detroit's hospital facilities were taxed to the utmost as all available doctors, nurses and ambulances were pressed into service while extra crews of police and firemen were called in to duty.
Sprawling Detroit with its more than 1,500,000 population suffered little, the wind was not heavy and the only damage was caused by heavy rain.
The wife and nine children of NELSON JONES, Ojibway laborer, are dead or missing.
Bodies of MRS. JONES and one child have been identified.
IDA SISSON, 21, who was shopping in Windsor at the time of the storm, returned to the home of her parents in Sandwich west township where she found their eight room, two storey house in ruins.
Besides her parents, MR. and MRS. N. W. SISSON, four other persons lived with her there.
"I don't know what happened to anyone," she said.
W. LABOIE, who lives at highway 18 and seven mile road, described the approach of the tornado to the point where it took the most lives and seemed to have levelled the most houses.
"I heard the noise," LABOIE said. "I think it was coming about 50 miles an hour. I warned the folks in the house and we ran to the woods about a quarter of a mile away."
"By the time we got to the woods the houses behind us were gone -- just as quick as that."
As the storm turned away from the River ROuge business section it ripped through a government warehouse stocked with surplus war materials. An undetermined number of high explosive bombs dumped into the Detroit River.
At Seven Mile and Farnham, Sandwich West, parents are frantically searching for their children who have been blown out of their homes. Some were blown right out of the arms of their parents.
One boy, about seven, walked about crying for his mother -- he was naked; the storm had whipped every stitch from his body.
The Little River bridge, a solid concrete span six miles east of Tecumseh, was lifted from its foundation and blown across the road.

Windsor, Ont. June 18 -- Bodies of 13 persons killed in last night's tornado have been identified as follows:
ARCHIE MacDOUGALL, 75, Briton Beach, Ont.
MRS. ARCHIE MacDOUGALL, 70, Briton Beach, Ont.
ULYSSES SOULLIERE, 28, Huron Line Township, Ont.
MRS. NELSON JONES, 46, Ojibway, Ont.
FRANCES JONES, 8, her daughter.
MRS. DANIEL FIELD, Little River, Ont.
DONNA MARIE FOX, 2, daughter of MRS. RAYMOND FOX, West Sandwich, Ont.
WALDO BEAMAN, West Sandwich Township.
MRS. JOAN BEAMAN, 19, wife of WALDO.
Infant BEAMAN, born to MRS. BEAMAN by ceasarian section and died after living an hour.
D. WAYCHUK, Tecumseh, Ont. (male).
In addition to above, WILLIAM JOURNEAU, 49, power company linesman, who was killed on the Detroit side of the border while trying to repair a high voltage wire.
MRS. CHARLES GARNETT, 60, Rochester, Mich., lost her life when she was swept away from her porch by flooding waters of Paint Creek after a dam broke near her home.
Addition injured and killed:
MRS. ROSE CLARK, extremely critical.
MRS. IDA UPHAM, extremely critical.
MRS. DOROTHY FOX, extremely critical.
MR. NELSON JONES, very critical condition.
MILO BEEMAN (BEAMAN), 29, died in hospital today.

Winnipeg Free Press Manitoba 1946-06-18


I have so much sympathy for

I have so much sympathy for what your father and his family endured. My Father is a cousin and I grew up hearing about the awful tragedy. So many lives were cut short and I will always remember the story that was told to me and will always say prayers that that kind of devastation will never happen again.

Article hits home

I am the son of Ernest Jones who is now deceased. This was his family that was devastated in this Tornado. He was the eldest sibling that actually survived. Both his parents and several siblings died in this Tornado and he had to care for the family. My dad was an amazing man and I just can't imagine what he had to go through when he came home to find his house totally gone and over half of his family taken from him. This is a subject he never wanted to talk about but I appreciate seeing this article and being thankful for what I have and what my parents provided for me

I am a grandson of the Mr.

I am a grandson of the Mr. and Mrs. N.W. Sisson appearing in this article re the 1946 Detroit/Windsor Tornado and I was amazed to have stumbled across it. The N.W. Sisson is Norman Wallace Sisson. My father, now deceased, told me of the destruction on his parents house in explanation as to why there were no pictures of himself, his siblings, or parents in our family album
which is why this article has some significance to me.