Police in Barrie say several people have been hurt in a tornado that caused “catastrophic” damage to homes and businesses on Thursday afternoon.
County of Simcoe Paramedic Services say eight patients were transported to hospital with four of them being seriously injured. Seven of those hospitalized were being treated for trauma and one for a medical condition, they said.
Spokesperson Peter Leon said they are currently being assisted by Ontario Province Police (OPP), going door-to-door and checking for any injuries.
The City of Barrie said those affected by the tornado are being assessed through an evacuation centre. No fatalities have been reported at this time.
Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman also said no one was unaccounted for.
“I can’t tell you how incredible it is that nobody has been killed, and I hope that as all the secondary searches are completed and the patients are treated in the hospital, that that continues to be the case,” he said.
“Because this certainly could have been a much more serious disaster.”
Barrie Fire confirmed in press conference that 20 to 25 structures were significantly damaged with at least two or three completely destroyed.
Emergency response crews are currently responding to the ongoing situation.
The City’s first concern is for public safety and the safety of our first emergency response personnel. We are working with other response agencies to manage the situation and minimize the impact it has on our community as a whole,” read the release from the City.
There is no word yet on how many people were affected.
Leon said some homes have sustained major damage, and there have been power outages and damage to some gas lines.
Leon is urging people to stay away from the region, adding that the main area stuck was near Mapleview Drive East and Prince William Way where there is significant development underway, including a high school being built in the location.
A severe thunderstorm warning is still in effect for Northern York Region and Durham Region.
Power outages are still being reported in Barrie. Over 1,800 homes and businesses are still without power, according to Alectra Utilities. Crews are still working to restore power and the estimated time of restoration is between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m.
Geoff Coulson, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada, says images and video posted to social media – which show heavy damage to buildings in the city’s south end – have helped confirm the storm was indeed a tornado.
“We don’t have a sense of the damage path, the length or width of the path” that the tornado took when it touched down in Barrie, he said, but the agency is sending a team to investigate, as is the Northern Tornadoes Project at Western University.
He says the tornado touched down around 2:30 p.m. Thursday, minutes after Environment Canada upgraded its tornado watch for the area to a warning.
People in Barrie have shared photos and videos of the destruction in the aftermath of the tornado, showing homes with their roofs partially torn off, overturned vehicles and debris littering the streets in parts of the city north of Toronto.
“My thoughts are with everyone in Barrie and Innisfil affected by the severe weather today,” tweeted Premier Doug Ford.
“A big thank you to our first responders that are currently on the ground helping the situation. Please stay safe everyone!”
Toronto and Halton-Peel are no longer under any weather warnings though the risk of strong thunderstorms is possible through the night. A mix of sun and clouds is expected in the city on Friday.
For the latest weather alerts and updates, tune into our broadcast live.
With files from The Canadian Press