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Barrie, Ont. devastated by tornado that left 5-kilometre long path of destruction

Posted in Canada, Featured

Published on July 16, 2021 with No Comments

Premier Doug Ford said province will cover damage for homes if insurance doesn’t.

A tornado that tore through Barrie, Ont., left a path of destruction about five kilometres long and up to 100 metres wide at some points, Environment Canada said Friday.

The federal weather agency gave the tornado, which hit the city about 110 km north of Toronto on Thursday afternoon  a preliminary rating of EF-2. It brought winds of up to 210 km/h.

Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman told News this morning that a total of 11 people were injured, after paramedics had initially put the figure at eight at a news conference yesterday. At least four of those people were taken to hospital for treatment.

The tornado also damaged about 25 homes, entirely levelling two or three, according to Barrie Fire Chief Cory Mainprize.

Premier Doug Ford said the province will cover damage for homes hit by Thursday’s tornado if insurance companies will not cover the costs.

“We’ll be here supporting them. If insurance doesn’t cover, then we’ll step up and help them out,” Ford told reporters.

Ford toured the devastated area on Friday afternoon, saying the province will help affected residents in whatever way it can. He talk to affected residents, who told stories of hiding in basements as the tornado roared overhead.

Miracle no one was killed: Ford

“It’s shocking, it’s heartbreaking,” Ford told reporters.

“I want to give a real shout-out to first responders. They are absolute heroes,” he added.

As for residents, Ford said: “We’re going to be here [to help them] get back on their feet in any way we can. Anything they need, we’ll be there for them.”

Ford said it was a miracle that nobody was killed.

Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said the province has not yet had to step in to help because the city of Barrie is doing an “excellent” job of dealing with the aftermath.

Mayor Lehman thanked the premier and residents in other areas of Barrie for their support.

He said residents know what to do when they see a funnel cloud touch down.

“Because so many of our residents went to their basements, that probably saved their lives,” Lehman said.

Meanwhile, the city has turned its attention to the cleanup.

Crews are expected to start making some of the repairs today, including patching up roofs that weren’t too badly damaged and going door to door to ensure individual houses are safe.

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

Most affected residents ended up staying with friends and family.

“The scenes today are reminiscent of it,” Lehman said. “I lived in that neighbourhood 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 déjà 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. Her two grandchildren — ages 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, helping out however she could at the church.

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


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