Disaster strikes


A tornado crossed part of the lagoon yesterday morning, and part of Sant’ Elena was in its way,  And all of our boat club.

The office is gone, the two buildings and sheds where our boats were kept are gone.  And the boats are pretty much gone, too.  I don’t mean “gone” as in lifted to heaven in the rapture, I mean it in the sense of smashed to various bits.  Because we were in a phase of demolishing the old clubhouse in anticipation of a new facility and all our 34 boats were outside.

The man who operates the winch to put the boats in and out of the water was in the metal container that served as his temporary shelter at the water’s edge.  The tornado rolled it over a couple of times with him in it, and two men managed to get him out.  He was rushed to the emergency room with a gash in his head and two broken ribs, but at least the container wasn’t tornado’d into the water with him in it.

Trees snapped and uprooted, but no further victims, as far as I know, unlike the previous tornado in 1970.

When the tornado struck, we were at the Rialto market where our attention was mostly dedicated to the price of cherries.  It rained, but we had not even the slightest hint that devastation was being wrought just over the way. We had a blast of rain, but there wasn’t anything about it that made you think of anything worse than your wet feet.

We got the news from a friend who was at San Marco, and who had seen it.  Then the phone calls began to spread the word.  At that point I was on Murano  with a friend, so I wasn’t able to go help with the first load of work, But Lino was there all afternoon, along with almost every club member who was available.

I’m still trying to get a grip on all this.  Because this morning has dawned cool, clear, and dazzling with cloudless sunshine.  Translation: The perfect day to go out in a boat.

The website of the Remiera Casteo has photographs and film of what the tornado left behind.

YouTube has a number of clips of this event but here is one of the best. If the video isn’t shown, here is the link: http://youtu.be/KFCaI_L_K4s

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Categories : Boatworld, Nature


  1. Mary Ann DeVlieg
    Twitter: maietm.org

    Terrible news; it’s tragic to see these boats all ruined, not to mention your man with the winch. We get home tomorrow to Sant’Erasmo where apparently the tornado skirted our house by 100 lucky metres. Making a difference between having a roof and not. As many of our neighbours can sadly testify.

  2. Beth Anderson
    Twitter: skywalkerbeth

    Erla, I am so sorry.

  3. Christa says:

    How can we donate funds to help rebuild? Feeling sorry is one thing, doing something to help is something else. Let us all know.

  4. Lisa Gordon says:

    This is terrible turn. I’m so glad the winch man was able to find some sort of shelter and that you and yours weren’t caught in it. As a young girl in Texas I remember the sheer unpredictability and devastation from a tornado that went past my school. It’s hard to ask what we can do to help, but like Christa, I know I would be glad to.

  5. Speedy recovery to the injured! We, europeans do not ever expect this kind of disaster to happen in our continent, so it is a real shock when it occurs.

    Yet, I think this unfortunate venetian incident should be seen as an opportunity. Those wooden boats, teredo would have taken care of them in 15 years anyhow. But there is no guarantee skill and capacity will still be available in 2025 or 2030 to build new ones. Today the skill still exists, but the capacity is about to disappear. (Won’t the Guidecca squero evacuate 75% of its floor space to give way to glass gizmo selling tourist traps?) Restoring or building anew some 36 or even 15-20 traditional rowboats right now, that could help workshops survive until the economy gains strenght.

    Of course Erla, being a writer, will have to put her skills to use, convincing Venice in Peril and the SAVE Venice funds to donate for the cause. I think 3.000 euros per wrecked boat is not an overestimate for the required budget and then some repair work is needed on buildings and facilites that were damaged.

    Hopefully the rowing club won’t end up like the nearby sports stadium, whose soccer team evacuated to the mainland last year, after suffering a financial whirlwind.