Severe thunderstorm ravages North Middlesex, Ont.

Northern Middlesex County seems to have been hardest hit by a large storm system that hit southwestern Ontario Sunday evening.

The storm, which included intense lightning and rain in many areas, caused substantial damage in Ailsa Craig, Parkhill and surrounding areas.

While the steeple of a historic church was toppled by high winds in Ailsa Craig, the most substantial damage appears to be out-of-town, where a silo was blown across a field and a barn was destroyed.

At that latter scene, property owner John Brendan tells CTV News London he’d gone to bed before the storm hit.

"Amazingly, I slept through it," he said.

This, despite the fact several trees had fallen just in front of his residence.

Around 1:30 a.m. Brendan woke up to discover rain had soaked his bedroom window. He then went outside to discover the intense damage around him.

“I shined my flashlight at the barn and the barn was non-existent.”

Brendan says he told himself it was a bad dream and went back to bed. At dawn, he was woken up by neighbours who had seen the destruction of his barn that had stood on his property since 1889.

“The first thing all my neighbours said is, ‘Thank god you’re OK, ‘Thank God you’re OK!’”

While there is no official word of what caused the damage, Brendan strongly believes it was tornado.

Steel, wood and other debris from the seemingly imploded structure is scattered across a path at least half-a-kilometre long. Concrete walls along its side lay broken by the wind.

Further down the road from Brendan’s farm, hydro poles are bent, snapped or just barely hanging on.

Inside Ailsa Craig, the clean up is underway, with dozens of trees and hundreds of tree limbs down across a large portion of town.

Local firefighter Toby Killby, who was busy cutting downed trees on his property, reflected on how the storm began with flash lightning.

“Things just went wild from there, the power went out. It’s just like a wall of rain coming across the yard. It was crazy.”

Paula Stainton heard the wildest moment of the storm, the steeple at the Trinity church coming down.

“Heard a lot of tracking, heard some trees were down, and the church roof was gone!”

That reality leaves Ron Walker, the curator of the church feeling thankful.

Looking at the topped steeple, he is glad the rest of the structure, built in 1870, was not destroyed. A large tree, just behind it, narrowly missed taking out the church.

It comes as he prepares the building for a 25th anniversary party this Saturday to mark it becoming part of the local museum.

He is hopeful the steeple might be replaced before then.

“So it’s been up since 1869 and 1870 and decided last night it was time to take a rest on the ground.”

The impact of the storms also closed a few schools in Northwest Middlesex, Elgin and Norfolk counties.

NTP teams are investigating the most significant damage from last night's storm over SW ON. One team is surveying the Parkhill area, the other the Mount Brydges area. Additional locations may be visited this afternoon or tomorrow. You can forward reports to @NTP_Reports #ONStorm

— Northern Tornadoes Project ���� (@westernuNTP) September 13, 2021