Remembering the 1985 Barrie tornado

Eight people in Barrie were killed; damage topped $100-million; 800 people were left homeless

May 31, 1985.

A series of tornadoes – one of which blasted through Barrie – ravaged parts of Central Ontario. Winds were clocked at more than 300 kilometres an hour.

Twelve people were killed – eight in Barrie; damage topped $100-million; 800 people were left homeless.

Barrie resident Bob Chapple remembers…

Fourteen tornadoes swept through Ontario that day, in an age when predicting such storms was spotty.

Unlike today, there was no tornado warning. There was nothing in place that would allow Environment Canada forecasters to predict what was about to happen.

Today, they have specialized radar equipment designed to identify the kinds of storms that could spawn tornadoes; there are warning preparedness meteorologists, able to issue warnings of potential tornadic activity (such as last weekend when a tornado watch was issued, albeit briefly – for the Barrie-area; and there is sophisticated technology that can interrupt radio and television programming to issue an alert.

An EF-2 tornado ripped through south Barrie last July. The wind was in excess of 200 kilometres an hour. One hundred and ten homes were damaged; 71 were deemed unsafe.

The biggest risk from a tornado is being struck by flying debris

When a Tornado Warning is issued it’s your cue to take shelter immediately, preferably in a basement away from windows.


  • seek shelter in a structurally sound building, preferably in a basement; failing that, an interior room with no windows
  • lay down in a ditch away from overhead power lines; the lowest point of land you can find will be the safest


  • stay out in the open
  • seek shelter in a shed
  • stay in your car; it can be lifted from the ground and tossed around like a toy; there have also been cases of people being sucked out of their vehicle through a sunroof
  • seek shelter under a bridge; debris will blow under a bridge and there’s a danger of collapse
  • seek shelter in a culvert; there’s the potential for flash flooding that could be deadly
  • risk your life by taking photos or videos

banner image – John Mahler