A Walk Around the Town Centre

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We live everywhere, we h2g2ers. For some of us, tornados are an ever-present danger – a weather event that can be life-changing. merely a number shares the story of the aftermath of a tornado on a small Canadian community. We offer our condolences on their loss, and wish them all the best as they rebuild.

A Walk Round the Town Centre

Bright sun and heavy clouds

It's Wednesday, twenty-four days since the Sunday afternoon when a tornado ripped through the small Ontario town of Goderich. The town centre, a hexagonal area known as Courthouse Square because it's home to, you guessed it, The Courthouse, was closed to vehicular and pedestrian traffic until last weekend. It is open now but large parts remain fenced off. I'm at the end of Kingston Street walking toward the Square just to have a look and see what kind of state my town is in and how well the recovery is coming along.

The building complex to my left on the other side of the road is largely unharmed with only a few broken windows boarded up; it houses The Financial Group and The Winemaker's Shop, both of which are doing business as usual; a part of the complex untenanted at the time of the tornado is presently in use by a disaster clean-up company. Not an old building, would be my guess.

Here immediately on my right is the single-storey Rexall's Pharma Plus Drugmart, open for business as it has been since a week ago last Monday. A work crew is on the roof and another is working to repair the smashed wall of display windows which line this sidewalk. The parking lot is operating normally, the downed trees, crushed cars and overturned RVs having been removed as has the ponderous HVAC unit blown down from the roof. This building was built quite recently, since the turn of the century. The young trees on the boulevard between sidewalk and roadway have suffered only a few broken branches here and there but then they've been there no longer than the Drugmart.

Next on the left is the virtually undamaged Goderich Legion building in stark contrast to the next complex on this side, most parts of which are marked as structurally unsound. The marked parts were, at the front, Hoffmeyer Appliances Sales & Service and at the rear Hoffmeyer's plumbing and heating business. Above and to the side were apartments. A large part of the roof and upper rear structure has been torn away. At the far end of this complex was a 3-bay car wash and an H. R. Block Tax Office. These are now a heap of rubble and steel I-beams and have been fenced off. The trees on the boulevard along here are gone, most felled but at least one torn out by the root.

Across St. David Street and here's another fence, this one around the remains of The Burger Bar, the home of the best breakfast on the West Coast. A handwritten sign on the fence informs that the staff is still ready to serve at "The Maitland" (a Country Club on the north side of town). The building has been crushed by the falling upper storeys of the adjacent Goderich Grill Family Restaurant, a much older building of which virtually only the towering now windowless front wall remains intact. To the right I can see the destroyed roofs and backs of the older buildings in the first block on The Square.

I walk in the road alongside the fence, past a now windowless and roofless 3-storey Chisholm TV and Stereo, the last few metres to The Square and can see The Courthouse clearly. For the first time ever. There used to be over a hundred mature trees around it. And a bandstand nearby. And park benches. Now I can see only a couple of the half dozen small trees remaining. The bandstand has gone, as have the benches. The Courthouse windows for the most part are boarded up and the place is not in service although I hear that damage to the structure is minimal. Public access is denied so I can't go and see for myself.

Immediately to my right, on the corner of Kingston Street and The Square is J. Carman's Foto Source. This entire block is, as we saw a few minutes ago, severely damaged to the roofs and rear and is closed as far as East Street. That includes Wing Hong Restaurant, Bailey's Restaurant, ABC Investments, Lighthouse Money Management and BMO Bank of Montreal.

On East Street itself I can see on this side the destroyed Centre for Employment & Learning and on the far side the almost equally destroyed New Again store.

On the corner the closed Listen Up! Hearing Care Centre is followed by the next three shops, also closed, Denomme Flowers, Wuerth's Shoes and The Ross Firm. Then, open for business, Ambeance and Innovation Salon and Spa. Unfortunately, next door on the corner of Hamilton Street, Baechler Kitchens & Interiors is closed.

Hamilton Street itself seems to have escaped and on the far corner The Royal Bank of Canada is open as is Something Irresistible although Schaefer's Ladies Wear and Lingerie! between them is closed. Closed too is Cravings so no more freshly roasted coffee beans or homemade chocolates or fudge for a while. But next door on the corner of North Street Kulpepper's Kitchen Store is open. Their usual sidewalk display is conspicuously absent though.

The next block, from North Street to Colborne Street is operating normally with the exception of the Law Office of Donnelly & Murphy on the Colborne Street corner. This group includes Anstett Jewellers Ltd., Garb & Gear, Winston Men's Wear, The Bistro café, Fincher's Books, Toys and Gifts all open. Between the last two is the future home of ABC Investments, in the process of being remodelled.
The next block, from Colborne Street to West Street is all closed with the exception of the two corners.

On the near one is CIBC (Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce) which is open and on the far corner is the small office of the town Business Association to which the door stands open and the red white and blue rosette signifying business as usual is displayed. Between these two and sadly in very poor shape are Park Theatre (Movies as they should be seen – on a larger-than-life motion picture screen. Two screens for more laughter, excitement, thrills and romance. Entertainment 7 nights a week), All Around the House, Rivett's Video Centre and Wholesale Jewellers Plus.

West Street remains closed and with only a single exception, I can see all the businesses on both sides are missing a roof and/or wall. This list, from memory because I have no access includes Quilters By The Square, The Book Peddler, Wicked Willie's Table & Pub, Westcoast Photography and Framing, West Coast Kitchens all on this side of the street then on the far side Culbert's Bakery and Luanne's Flowers & Gifts. This is the first time in over a hundred years the old brick ovens in the bakery have been cool, and it is not known if they will withstand being reheated. Finally, up toward The Square is the sole exception, Christian Life Bookstore is open for business.

There's not much in the next block from West Street to Montreal Street and with the exception of Dens and Friends and the café on the far corner they are all open for business. They are Scotiabank, Ontario Provincial Police, the Art Galleries (Elizabeth's and Goderich Co-op). Dens and Friends – specializing in Collectibles, Giftwear and Children's Fashions – and Coffee Culture on the corner however, are unfortunately seriously damaged.

On the far side of Montreal Street, First Baptist Church and the Law Firm of Prest and Egener are fenced off for reconstruction crews but don't seem to have been condemned.

The far corner of Montreal Street marks the beginning of another closed, seriously damaged block. Beginning with Sweets and Memories (A lighthearted atmosphere, guaranteed to put a smile on your face.) followed by King Music, Woof! N Stuff, Collins & Wright Hair Studio, The Bean and ending with The Bargain Store! on the corner of South Street. This latter, although the sidewalk is fenced off with the rest of this block, has only some of the windows boarded and I see all the lights inside are on. Also, there are no markings indicating it has been condemned, so perhaps we'll see it back in operation in the foreseeable future.

South Street itself seems to have pretty much escaped damage and on the far corner The Bedford Hotel has only a couple of windows boarded up, is open and Paddy O'Neil's Restaurant Pub within is doing business. Next door Mike & Ray's Barber Shop (Only Mike now, as Ray retired quite a while ago.) is open and packed as usual. Joe Friday's Sports Saloon is also busy. Shanahan's Quality Meats & Deli is closed, though as are The Shoe Barn and Edward Jones Investments.

This brings me back to Kingston Street and I can see, opposite the wrecked Burger Bar the River Line Nature Company has just opened and is once again ready to cater to the needs of our feathered friends, however few in number they may be following the loss of so many of our beautiful trees.

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