Barrie Tornado: One year later

Many homes remain in a state of repair, for a variety of reasons

2:48 p.m., July 15, 2021.

CP24 meteorologist Chris Potter knew exactly what was happening, “I definitely lived it, I still did my job, I still warned all my family and friends,” he told Barrie 360 at the time. “I didn’t say much, the only thing I said was ‘basements, now’, and everyone knew what that meant.”

Potter lives in the south Barrie neighbourhood ravaged by last year’s tornado.

The twister missed his house. He and his wife took shelter in their basement until it passed, then went to a nearby daycare centre to check on their son, “Walking up to the daycare and seeing the building damaged, seeing the glass blown in, thinking the worst. Everyone at The Learning Jungle, all the staff, took care of more than 60 kids that day, and they kept all of them safe.”

Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman was in his city hall office on a Zoom call, but not for long. “I was down here at Sun King and Majesty about 15 minutes afterwards. And it was very apparent we’d had a huge disaster. My immediate thought was, ‘Oh, God, we’ll have people who are trapped and people who have been killed.’ And your immediate concern is do we have huge numbers of people that are hurting and need help? And are we going to have enough to help them very quickly?”

Barrie Tornado: One year later
Mayor Jeff Lehman, a year later at Sun King Crescent and Majesty Street

More than enough as it turned out.

In addition to city police and firefighters, Simcoe County Paramedics were on the scene quickly. Paramedics from York Region were not far behind, and the OPP OPP. St. Gabriel School opened its doors as an emergency centre, and the community responded with food and other essential items.

PODCAST: Join us as we look back at the 2021 Tornado (and more local news)

Twelve people were taken to hospital, others were treated at the scene.

No one was killed.

Many homes remain in a state of repair, for a variety of reasons – insurance issues, a lack of contractors, and a lack of materials.

Some homes remain boarded up and fenced off, deemed unsafe for habitation, their owners not in a position to do anything.

Prince William Way and Griffin Gate

There has been much talk since the tornado about housing standards, and whether hurricane straps should be employed to better secure roofs from high winds.

“We can’t force somebody to do something that is beyond the Ontario building code,” says Lehman, “and so we have, on behalf of our residents, written to the province and said, look, you’re updating the building code, you really need to think about making these things mandatory for these very good reasons.”

Lehman also wonders if we need more than a blanket building code covering the entire province. It’s a fact, he says, Central Ontario has more severe weather than other parts of the province, so maybe the standards need to be different from region to region.

There were thunderstorm watches and warnings issued a year ago in advance of a tornado warning.

For many, it came too late.

Environment Canada’s David Phillips says while tornadoes are not always easy to predict, there are signs that should have you keeping an eye on the sky, “It doesn’t sneak up on you. You don’t get tornadoes from blue skies and white puffy clouds. We do get wild weather and the signs are always there. We’ve seen it in the Barrie area with black clouds and greenish, threatening skies and on a day when the temperatures are high and the humidity is high, you just know the atmosphere is angry, it’s going to break out.”

And, Phillips notes, embedded in all severe thunderstorm warnings is a reminder that such storms could spawn tornadoes.

images: Barrie 360