PHOTOS/VIDEO:1912 cyclone leaves few scars on present day Regina
One hundred years after the Regina cyclone of 1912, you have to search carefully to find any scars left on the city.
Running up to the anniversary this Saturday, News Talk Radio is running a special series known as “The Cyclone of the Century: Regina's Deadliest Day”. Here's more on this series:
- VIDEO:100 years ago, cyclone destroys Regina in minutes
- MAP: Path of death left behind by Regina cyclone of 1912
- PHOTOS: Downtown Regina destroyed by cyclone of 1912
- MAP: If the 1912 cyclone hit Regina today
- Story of boy in canoe in 1912 Regina cyclone twisted over time
- McDougall family loses three in 1912 Regina cyclone
It was on June 30, 1912 during a hot and muggy afternoon that a tornado slammed into the centre of the city. Twenty-eight people were killed almost instantly. Another 15 are believed to have died later on.
The tornado touched down about a dozen kilometers south of the legislature, sparing that building before churning north and slamming into the residential streets of Smith and Lorne. (View a map showing the general path of the cyclone. Click through a second map showing historic images of the cyclone's destruction as well as the present day buildings.)
Today it's hard to tell how many of the homes in that neighborhood would have been there that fateful day in 1912. There's an incredible picture taken of this area in the aftermath.
Hundreds of homes were flattened, but clusters were left standing.
On 15th Avenue between Smith and Lorne, the offices of Dimension 11 are run out on an old character home. Employee Tom Barradas has only been told a little bit about the grand old house built in 1910.
“I’ve been told the tornado took out everything on one side of Lorne and everything on this side of Lorne was sparred, which included this house,” said Barradas.
The home shows nothing of its brush with one of nature’s most destructive forces.
After eating its way through the residential homes, the appetite of the tornado turned to even larger buildings in Regina’s young downtown.
First up was First Baptist Church on the southwest edge of Victoria Park. The church had only just been completed six months before.
Standing in church attic, Hillary Ryan recounts what she knows of that day.
“It is my understanding that about half an hour after the Sunday school left the building, at about 5 in the afternoon, a tornado came down Smith Street. It took out a lot of houses, destroyed the southwest corner of the church and lifted this dome right off and carried it two blocks away and dumped it in the Church of England’s yard. It left a wide open gaping hole in the church here,” said Ryan.
She can’t help but be impressed by the survivors of that day, who took out second mortgages on their home so the building could be rebuilt.
Across the street the Knox Metropolitan United Church got hit even worse. The back of the building --which at that time was the Metropolitan Methodist Church -- was completely gone.
Bell ringer Wayne Tunison points to a strip of darker bricks just above the tall first floor windows.
“In their haste, they had to make a decision that they couldn’t get enough replacement bricks to re-do the building. They were either going to have to wait several weeks or rebuild with a different coloured brick. So they rebuilt with a line,” said Tunison.
Today it’s the city’s best example of a scar by the Regina cyclone.
Around Victoria Park, few other building were salvaged. The first central library, YMCA building and telephone exchange were wiped out.
A block north is the Donahue building with a story that will make you never see the structure the same way again.
“This building was completed in 1911 and when the cyclone hit it blew out every window and from what I understand it was the only building left standing in the direct path of the cyclone,” said Ryan Wood. He is a history teacher working in the building. Regina Public School's adult campus is one of the current tenants.
“The students really like hearing that it’s tornado proof,” he laughs.
What would the survivors of that time thought walking down these streets as we know them now? Would they ever have believed there’d be a time when the people of Regina would need to search hard for any trace of the devastation they worked so hard to come back from?
Edited by CJME's Karen Brownlee.