Remembering the Barrie tornado

Fourteen tornadoes swept through Ontario that day

May 31, 1985.

A series of tornadoes – one of which blasted through Barrie – ravaged parts of Central Ontario. Winds were clocked at 415 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.

Not so today says local storm chaser Dave Sills, “Back in 1985…we were just getting Doppler Radar then. Since that time, the science of how we collect that data and how we analyze that data has really exploded. Across Canada, we’re just installing a new set of radars that will have even more ability to detect tornado circulations.”

Sills, who heads up Northern Tornadoes Project at Western University after years of investigating tornado reports for Environment Canada, says it remains unclear how much an effect climate change has had on the incidence of tornadoes, “There’s no doubt that climate change is having an impact on storms but it’s going to take a while to know what that impact is…because the sample size, the number, we have to deal with to look for trends is not that big.”

The record run of tornadoes in the U.S. has ended. There were 13 days consecutive days with more than eight twisters reported – 32 on Wednesday alone. There were just two reports on Thursday.

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