49 Vintage Photos Showing the Ruins of Sarnia, Ontario After the Tornado in 1953

A powerful tornado struck the city of Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, on the afternoon of May 21, 1953. It made at least 150 homes on the more suburban outskirts of the city were damaged and in some instances reduced to rubble. Financial losses in Canada totaled $15 million; five people were killed, 48 were injured, and 500 were left homeless.

Sarnia is a city in Lambton County, Ontario, Canada. It had a 2016 population of 71,594, and is the largest city on Lake Huron. Sarnia is located on the eastern bank of the junction between the Upper and Lower Great Lakes where Lake Huron flows into the St. Clair River in the Southwestern Ontario region, which forms the Canada–United States border, directly across from Port Huron, Michigan. The site’s natural harbour first attracted the French explorer La Salle. He named the site “The Rapids” on 23 August 1679, when he had horses and men pull his 45-ton barque Le Griffon north against the nearly four-knot current of the St. Clair River.

This was the first time that a vessel other than a canoe or other oar-powered vessel had sailed into Lake Huron, and La Salle’s voyage was germinal in the development of commercial shipping on the Great Lakes. Located in the natural harbour, the Sarnia port remains an important centre for lake freighters and oceangoing ships carrying cargoes of grain and petroleum products. The natural port and the salt caverns that exist in the surrounding areas, together with the oil discovered in nearby Oil Springs in 1858, led to the dramatic growth of the petroleum industry in this area. Because Oil Springs was the first place in Canada and North America to drill commercially for oil, the knowledge that was acquired there resulted in oil drillers from Sarnia travelling the world teaching other enterprises and nations how to drill for oil.

The complex of refining and chemical companies is called Chemical Valley and located south of downtown Sarnia. In 2011 the city had the highest level of particulates air pollution of any Canadian city, but it has since dropped to rank 30th in this hazard. About 60 percent of the particulate matter comes from industries and polluters in the neighbouring United States.

Lake Huron is cooler than the air in summer and warmer than the air in winter; therefore, it moderates Sarnia’s humid continental climate, making temperature extremes of hot and cold less evident. In the winter, Sarnia occasionally experiences lake-effect snow from Arctic air blowing across the warmer waters of Lake Huron and condensing to form snow squalls over land. (Wikipedia)

Take a look at these incredible photos to see what Sarnia, Ontario looked like just after the tornado in 1953.

Christina St. looking south from Lochiel St.
Clean-up work on the Vendome Hotel
East side of Christina St. looking south to Cromwell St.
East side of Front St. between Lochiel and Cromwell Sts. showing tornado damage to the Barr building and the Mackenzie-Milne building
East side of Front St. just south of Bank of Commerce
East side of Front St. looking south to Cromwell St.
Euphemia St. looking north from Lochiel St.
Houses after tornado
Lochiel St. looking east from Christina St.
Lochiel St. near Brock St.
Looking east down George St. from Brock St.
Looking north down Euphemia St. to George St.
Looking north on College Avenue from George St.
Looking west down George St. from Euphemia St.
Looking west down Lochiel St. from Brock after Tornado
Macklin’s Greenhouses
Macklin’s Greenhouses
Man walking on street after tornado
Manley’s after the Tornado of 1953
Manley’s after the Tornado of 1953
Maria St. just west of Mitton St.
Modern Dry Cleaning on Cromwell St.
North side of Lochiel St. at Brock St.
North side of Lochiel St. east of Brock
Northeast corner of Christina and Cromwell Sts.
Northwest corner of Brock and Lochiel Sts.
Northwest corner of Christina and Cromwell Sts.
People gathering together after tornado
Purity Dairy building
Rear of buildings on Front St.
Rear of Front St. buildings
Rear of Taylor’s Furniture store
Rear of the Colonial Hotel
Rear of the Taylor’s Furniture building at Christina and Cromwell Sts.
Reitman’s on Christina St.

Remains of the Imperial Theatre
Remains of the original Imperial Theatre
Sarnia after Tornado
Sarnia City Hall after tornado 1953
Southeast corner of Lochiel and Christina St., Sarnia, ON
Stewart’s Funeral Home, Sarnia, ON
Street scenes of Sarnia after tornado
Street scenes of Sarnia after tornado
Tornado damage on Mitton St.
West side of Front St. looking south
Vehicle crush by debris in the Tornado
Vendome Hotel after Tornado
West side of Front St. looking south to Ferry Dock Hill
West side of Front St.

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