Little Tornado Alley

“Little Tornado Alley” Windsor, Ontario

On June 17, 1946, the third largest tornado in Canadian history hit Windsor, Ontario.  It occurred around 6 pm in Windsor’s Southeast corner, seventeen people were killed and hundreds more were injured.  Witnesses said that the tornado lasted only minutes and they estimated it to be 600 feet across the top and about 100 feet across the base.

The tornado touched down in Michigan and then crossed the river into the Brighton Beach area of Windsor, crossing into South Windsor and then into Northern Sandwich West which is now known as LaSalle.  It touched down again at the intersection that is known today as, Walker and Grand Marais roads, barely missing the Windsor Airport.  It then touched down in Tecumseh and disappeared over Lake St. Clair.  It was determined it was an F4 tornado, causing F5 damage in certain areas and, that it traveled a path of 60 kilometers.

Windsor was then hit again on April 3, 1974.  Numerous dangerous storms in the US, dubbed as a “Super Outbreak”, created an F3 tornado that touched down in Michigan and again, crossed into Windsor.  During the Super Outbreak, there were 148 twisters recorded in the US in a 24 hour period.  After crossing the river, this tornado touched down in River Canard and headed Northeast.  This happened at approximately 8 pm.

It hit the Devonshire Mall where an expansion was taking place. It gnarled steel framing and toppled a crane.  Then, heading for the Windsor Curling Club.  The Chrysler Blue Broom Bonspiel tournament was going on.  One of the last tournaments of the season and the building was packed full of people.  The tornado ripped off the roof, collapsed walls and then disappeared.

The tornado left a path of destruction of 22 km long and about 200 meters wide.  It was labeled the sixth deadliest tornado in Canadian History.  Total damage was estimated at $1.8 million. In total 9 people lost their lives and 30 people were injured in the collapse of the curling club.

Chaos struck when a tornado hit the Southern part of Essex County, on June 6, 2010, very early in the morning.  No one got a good look at the tornado but, the destruction they faced when the sun rose was more than shocking.  Residents could not believe what they were seeing and were puzzled and relieved that no one was injured or dead.  The town of Leamington and it’s 30,000 residents faced downed trees, loss of hydro for days, crushed cars and, severely damaged homes and scattered parts of them around the neighborhood.  The most heavily damaged area was Seacliff Drive located along Lake Erie.

The tornado was categorized as an F1 tornado in strength.  It left a path of destruction 2 km long.  Total damage estimates were close to $90 million for the area.  Across Lake Erie, near Toledo, Ohio, a tornado had touched down several hours earlier.  It’s path nearly 100 meters wide and 16 km in length. More than 50 homes were destroyed and numerous lives lost and many more injured.

The area between Windsor and Barrie is known as, “Little Tornado Alley.”  Ontario has an estimated a dozen or so tornadoes every year.  The real “Tornado Alley” located in the   US between the Rocky and the Appalachian Mountains, sees about 500 tornadoes a year.

With Windsor being the thunderstorm capital of Canada, there is always the possibility of tornadoes here.  The most active period being between late May and early August, most often during the afternoon hours.

Fortunately, we have a much better warning system in place.  Credible sources such as Environment Canada’s Weather Office and the Weather Network, are now able to track and, relay weather more efficiently, which you should check regularly during bad weather.  It’s advised you have a plan in place to protect your family during extreme weather and, keep a survival kit on hand.


1946, April 3, 1974, Essex County, June 17, Leamington Ontario, little tornado alley, tornado, tornado alley, tornadoes, Windsor Curling Club, Windsor Ontario Canada