Monday, October 29, 2012

1953 Sarnia Tornado

While reading Frankenstorm: Great-Grandpa Would Not Have Known it was Coming at Olive Tree Genealogy Blog, it occurred to me that my mother Jacqueline lived through her own "Frankenstorm": the 1953 tornado in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada.

On the afternoon of 21 May 1953, Mom (who was 19 years old) was visiting her eldest sister Mariette and her husband Jack at their home in Sarnia. A thunderstorm suddenly appeared. Mom went out on the wide front porch and to her amazement, saw large hailstones falling. She called to her sister to come outside and see this force of nature. Unbeknownst to them, though, a tornado was raging in parts of the city. Mercifully, the storm didn’t touch Aunt Mariette’s house or street. The next day, Mom and a friend went to inspect the damage, taking pictures of the destruction.

A street near Aunt Mariette's house:

1953 Sarnia Tornado

Shoemaker's on George Street:

1953 Sarnia Tornado

The back of Front Street, Sarnia:

1953 Sarnia Tornado

The tornado had first touched down about 4:30 p.m. in Smiths Creek, Michigan, USA, and then moved on to nearby Port Huron.[1] The storm crossed the St. Clair River and headed for Sarnia, where it caused severe damage to homes and downtown businesses. The tornado continued throughout Lambton (where Sarnia is located) and Middlesex counties in southwestern Ontario. It left seven dead, 40 injured, and 500 homeless, as well as causing $59.7 million in damages.[2]


1. Wikipedia contributors, "1953 Sarnia tornado", Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia ( : accessed 29 October 2012).

2. "Signifcant tornadoes of the 19th and 20th centuries", database, Public Safety Canada ( : accessed 29 October 2012). Note: This article specifies that quoted "damage figures are in year 2000 dollars".

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

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