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Massive Ontario tornado outbreak marks anniversary

Friday, May 31st 2019, 2:36 pm - The infamous Barrie Tornado helped to raise the public's awareness for emergency preparedness.

May 31 marks the 34th anniversary of one of the biggest tornado outbreaks in Canadian history.

A total of 14 tornadoes raked across southern Ontario through the afternoon and evening hours, damaging thousands of buildings, causing hundreds of injuries, and claiming the lives of a dozen people.

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The two most potent storms to tear through the region on the day were the infamous Barrie tornado and an extremely long-lived twister that cut a path of destruction more than 100 km long from Grand Valley to Tottenham.

tornado2

The Grand Valley-Tottenham storm may have actually played a role in lowering the death toll in the Barrie area -- widespread power outages in the Barrie area caused by the first storm's passage had seen many businesses close early that day.

Even so, the Barrie tornado remains one of the most deadly in Canada's history, leaving behind a damage path 5 km long and up to 600 metres wide within the city limits.

BELOW: THE BARRIE TORNADO SUPERCELL STORM, SEEN ON SATELLITE

Aside from the deaths, the region's economy took a major hit as well. Some 150 farms were damaged, and within the city itself, 16 factories were destroyed, putting hundreds of people out of work.

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If the outbreak did have one positive impact on Canadians, it was to spur both officials and the public to take action on emergency preparedness.

"It’s really since then that our emergency plans in Ontario have become much more significant and our ability to partner in the planning phase – as well as the response phase – has really changed," Cathy Clark, manager of Simcoe Country’s 911 and emergency planning told the Barrie Examiner in 2015.

The lead time for warnings has improved significantly since the mid-80s; thanks to advances in technology, Environment Canada can now provide the public with 10 to 15 minutes advance notice with its tornado warnings.

Services like Alert Ready also play an important role in public safety. Survivors of the 2018 Ottawa-area tornado outbreak credited alerts received via the system with saving their lives.

BELOW: CANADA'S F5 TORNADO - ELIE, MANITOBA 2007

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