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Clean-up begins after tornado destroys homes, injures people in Barrie

NICOLE THOMPSON, THE CANADIAN PRESS; AND NEWS STAFF | posted Friday, Jul 16th, 2021

Residents and repair crews in Barrie are cleaning up after a EF-2 tornado tore through a neighbourhood, damaging homes and injuring several people.

Paramedics said eight people were taken to hospital, and several others were treated for minor injuries.

In an update on Friday, Environment Canada said a damage survey team from Environment and Climate Change Canada and Western University’s The Northern Tornadoes Project determined a preliminary rating of EF-2 with maximum a wind speed of 210 km/h.

The national weather agency said thunderstorms moved into the region on Thursday afternoon, “producing a tornado that blasted the southern part of the city.”

“Just after 2:30 p.m. Thursday, a tornado tracked from the miniature golf course on Huronia Road and Mapleview Drive (in south Barrie) and continued eastward towards Prince William Way where it caused significant damage on the north side of Mapleview Drive.”

The national weather agency said trees were uprooted, vehicles were toppled, and at least 10 roofs flew off. The second floor of two homes was destroyed, and roof shingles were also damaged or came off from other homes.

Barrie Fire said Thursday that 20 to 25 structures were significantly damaged with at least two or three completely destroyed. Fire Chief Cory Mainprize said roughly 20 homes are considered uninhabitable, with two or three completely destroyed.

Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman also said no one was unaccounted for.

“I can’t tell you how incredible it is that nobody has been killed, and I hope that as all the secondary searches are completed and the patients are treated in the hospital, that that continues to be the case,” he said on Thursday.

“Because this certainly could have been a much more serious disaster.”

Crews are expected to start making some of the repairs Friday, including patching up roofs that weren’t too badly damaged.

Lehman says the community has already started coming together to support those who lost the most to the tornado, donating food and supplies.

He noted it’s a familiar scene to many long-time Barrie residents. A tornado killed eight people and injured more than a hundred others in the city in 1985. Hundreds of homes in the Allendale neighbourhood were destroyed.

“The scenes today are reminiscent of it,” Lehman said. “I lived in that neighborhood as a boy. I mean, it’s shocking, you know, you never expected to see it again.”

Yesterday’s tornado brought back memories for 70-year-old Judy Arksey, too.

“It was like deja-vu,” she said. “I got one look at the sky and I knew what was coming.”

She was in her daughter’s car in the driveway when the tornado ripped down the street yesterday. Her two grandkids — aged six and 16 — were with them.

“I remember the horses being lifted up out of the racetrack during the other tornado, and I thought, here goes our car with my grandkids in it,” Arksey said.

As soon as she saw the sky, she said, she told them to look down so they wouldn’t see what was coming for them.

Luckily, she said, the car stayed on the ground despite taking a beating in the strong wind, and she and her family escaped injury.

She said the community has come together in the wake of yesterday’s destruction, just like it did 36 years ago.

Arksey spent two weeks volunteering after the 1985 tornado, she said, helping out however she could at the church.

“I’m too old to do that this time,” she said.

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