Two days after an EF-2 tornado ripped through a south-end Barrie neighbourhood, dozens of construction workers, tradespeople and municipal crews have intensified their efforts to clean up strewn debris and stabilize heavily damaged homes.
In an update released on Twitter by Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman, he said as of Saturday afternoon 71 homes were deemed uninhabitable (a portion of those homes will be allowed for occupancy after repairs).
“(There’s) a huge amount of work already going on on properties in this neighbourhood with people being able to come back and pick up some of their stuff in some of the more damaged homes, but they need to be escorted in,” he said.
Environment Canada confirmed on Friday the tornado was estimated to have wind speeds of around 210 km/h.
On the streets where the damage was heavily concentrated (Sun King Crescent, Majesty Boulevard, Prince William Way, Regalia Way, Saxon Road, Norman Drive, Counsellor Terrace), access has been restricted to residents, contractors, public works crews, utility employees, insurance adjusters, and members of the media.
Global News observed a wide range of damages where houses with missing roofs and blown out walls and windows were mixed with more minor damages such as ripped off shingles and soffits with intense damage indiscriminately isolated to pockets.
MPP Andrea Khanjin, whose Barrie–Innisfil constituency covers the affected neighbourhood, was on hand to see the damage first hand and working to deliver supplies to affected residents. She said she and her office have been working to respond to a flood of inquiries for help.
“A lot of the needs are (garbage) bin removal, helping with clean up, and so that’s all working. It’s incredible how fast a lot of this has been. I know a few people are still waiting for their insurance companies to turn around,” Khanjin told Global News, encouraging expedited approvals of claims by insurance companies.
“So getting some direction from insurance (companies) and being compassionate is what we need the most right now. I need people to start an inventory. Their stuff is everywhere.”
Further illustrating the power of the tornado, Khanjin said a resident in Innisfil reported finding a piece of mail from someone on Prince William Way — approximately six kilometres apart. She also said she visited a woman who ended up with five barbecues in her backyard.
“As the days go on, we are going to need to, get help for people, whether it’s food or vouchers or donations, not just for the next few weeks — this is great that people are coming together for these families — but they are going to support all year round, especially the ones with kids,” Khanjin said.
In the short-term, she said she and her office staff are working to help people who need basic supplies and items such as getting new identification from the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.
Meanwhile, an update issued by City of Barrie staff on Saturday thanked the community for an outpouring of donations.
Officials said an impromptu donation centre at St. Gabriel the Archangel School on Prince William Way became so jam-packed with items that volunteers and staff had to refuse further donations. However, anyone who wants to help those impacted is encouraged to provide a financial donation at the school through the Salvation Army or online through the organization’s website (with a notation of “Barrie tornado”).
Since the initial tornado response, municipal crews moved in and set up four garbage and debris dropoff zones on residential streets for residents, their contractors and City workers. Employees have also been going house to house to pick up discarded items left at the streetside.
Residents in the affected area who are able to do so are encouraged to move their vehicles off their street as municipal crews will be cleaning debris off roads during the overnight hours on Sunday and Monday. Officials said tow trucks will be brought in to remove vehicles too damaged to be driven.
Municipal officials also issued a warning to the neighbourhood about people going door-to-door who are posing as Alectra Utilities representatives and asking for money to inspect homes. They said crews do not charge for inspections and asked anyone who receives a request to contact police.
Anyone who lives in the affected zone who needs assistance accessing their home or has any questions was encouraged to call the tornado response line at 705-728-8442 or visit the command centre at St. Gabriel the Archangel School.