Ont. woman emerges from basement to find roof torn off by tornado in Barrie

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TORONTO —
An Ontario woman filmed the devastation left behind after a tornado touched down in the south end of the city of Barrie Thursday, leaving significant property damage in its wake and several reports of severe injuries.

Barrie City Councillor Natalie Harris posted footage of the aftermath on Facebook, where she can be heard describing the damage.

“The roof is gone, oh my god,” she says in the video, walking around the house.

Harris told CTV News Channel Thursday she felt like she’s “in a dream.”

“To be honest with you right now I am just so grateful that my son and I are OK, that my dogs are OK – we were in the basement, we made it there just in the nick of time,” she said.

Harris said the event was “difficult to process,” as she and neighbours felt it was “hard to comprehend” the damage that unfolded in such a short period of time.

The storm lasted approximately 10 to 15 minutes, with Environment and Climate Change Canada blasting out warnings to cellphones around 2:30 p.m. The agency later confirmed that a tornado touched down.

The damage was described by Barrie police spokesperson Peter Leon as “catastrophic.”

“It looks very similar, unfortunately, to a war zone in places,” Leon said at a press conference Thursday afternoon. “The damage is significant, and it is major.”

Police said eight people were confirmed injured, four seriously, with emergency crews going through neighbourhoods ensuring no one was trapped in the debris.

Harris said she was visiting her son when his father called from a local Costco to warn them to seek shelter.

“He watched a garbage can whip across the parking lot and break a car window so he called and said ‘get into the basement,” she said. “Adam [her son] and I grabbed the dogs and ran into the basement, and 30 seconds later the power went out.”

Harris said there was “no question” the tornado was hitting the house.

“The dust started billowing into the basement even through a closed door so my son pushed me into the corner and said ‘mom stay there,’” she said. “There was nothing we could do.”

When the tornado had passed over, Harris said the door to the basement was blocked by debris and when she finally got it open, that’s when she began filming the damage.

“We’re just so lucky,” she said, adding that the bedrooms on the top floor were severely damaged and that if she hadn’t received a warning in time – her son would have been up there when the tornado hit.

“John saved our lives…we live in Barrie and get tornado warnings all the time, and I’ll be honest I don’t always go into the basement,” Harris said. “If there’s a lesson to be learned here – its listen to the warnings.”

“It just happened so fast.” 

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