There was a preliminary rating of an EF-2 tornado with maximum wind speeds of 210 km/h, according to a damage survey team from Environment Canada and Western University’s Northern Tornados Project.
The weather summary was published early Friday confirming the strength of the twister.
The majority of the damage from the tornado appeared to be concentrated to around five or six streets near Prince William Way and Mapleview Drive East.
The damage path was about five kilometres long and up to 100 metres wide, the weather agency noted, adding the damage track may have continued towards Friday Harbour and over Lake Simcoe.
Images from the area showed shingles blown off rooftops, debris all over properties and along the roads, cars damaged and on their roofs, and major structural damage.
Environment Canada said thunderstorms developed across most of southern Ontario on Thursday afternoon, with one severe thunderstorm that produced a tornado as it moved across Barrie.
It was just after 2:30 p.m. when a tornado tracked from a miniature golf course on Huronia Road and Mapleview Drive and continued eastward towards Prince William Way, the weather agency said.
The tornado caused significant damage on the north side of Mapleview Drive, Environment Canada said.
“Trees were uprooted or toppled, and at least 10 roofs were removed,” the weather summary read. “The second floor was destroyed or removed from 2 houses.”
“A couple vehicles were overturned. Roof shingles were damaged or removed from a number of other homes along the damage track from the tornado.”
Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman said Friday morning that a total of 11 people were injured from the tornado.
The Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale is a measurement tool used by meteorologists to rate the intensity of tornadoes in some countries such as Canada and is based on the damage they cause. Scaling starts at EF-0 (minor damage) to EF-5, which is incredible and devastating damage.
Global News Chief Meteorologist Anthony Farnell said the Enhanced Fujita rating system uses the damage caused by wind to estimate the wind speed after the fact. He said anything from minor structure damage to an entire home collapse is a sign of how strong the winds are. In an open field or forest, tree damage or dirt displacement can also be used.
“In some areas the damage may be more consistent with an EF-3 but poor building construction can also make it seem like it was from stronger winds than what actually occurred,” Farnell said referencing Barrie.
“The investigation continues and an upgrade is still possible as new areas along the path are looked at,” Farnell continued. “Other possible tornado paths including around the Kawartha Lakes will be looked at on Friday so expect the total tornado numbers from Thursday’s outbreak to rise.”
This is not the first time Barrie has seen a significant tornado.
On May 31, 1985 a devastating tornado hit the city and surrounding area registering as an F-4 (based on a previous Fujita scale at the time) that was part of a massive outbreak that spawned 14 tornadoes in Ontario with many more south of the border in the U.S. northeast.
Farnell said winds were estimated at over 330 km/h and destroyed over 300 homes leaving about 800 people displaced from their properties in Barrie alone. He said had this similar storm happened today there would have been more damage and destruction.
The tornado 36 years ago took the lives of eight people and injured hundreds.
“That is still one of the strongest and more damaging tornadoes in Canadian history,” Farnell said.