Remembering the Barrie tornado – 35 years ago

Fourteen tornadoes swept through Ontario that day

It came disguised as a thunderstorm.

But it was more than the usual thunder and lightning storm.

This one, on May 31, 1985, packed a debilitating punch.

Winds were clocked at 415 kilometres an hour as one of 14 tornadoes in Ontario that day swirled through Barrie.

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

Barrie resident Bob Chapple remembers…

Unlike today there was 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.

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.

DO 

  • 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

DON’T

  • 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 can 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

A DAY TO REMEMBER

banner image – John Mahler