71 homes uninhabitable after EF-2 tornado rips through Barrie, Ont.
BARRIE, ONT. -- The number of homes deemed uninhabitable after a destructive EF-2 tornado passed through a Barrie, Ont. neighbourhood has risen to 71.
Thursday's twister left a trail of destruction in the Prince William Way area five kilometres long and up to 100 metres wide in the city north of Toronto.
Officials say 11 people were injured, 10 were sent to the hospital, two of them with serious injuries. No one was killed.
On Saturday, residents in the heart of the destruction zone were taking stock and rallying together to pick up the pieces.
Kara Brunner believed her life was about to be cut short at the age of 11 as she watched the storm move in through a basement window.
"I saw everything turn white, and I saw a tree get sucked up into it and was hovering above our pool," said Kara.
The tornado's path was so narrow, it left the family's home largely untouched, but the backyard where Kara was supposed to host a backyard birthday party Friday is a different story.
"All of our fences (are) gone- our trees are all gone or half gone," said Kara's mother, Kristine Luescher.
At nearby Cicco's Ristorante, diners were sitting on the patio moments before the tornado hit.
Owner Lindsay Weiss says everyone hustled into the kitchen, but the building is badly damaged.
"The windows blew out of the restaurant, and now we know the wall was blown out of the restaurant, and the roof came off," Weiss said.
It's a crushing blow for a business that's been struggling during the pandemic.
"After this year with COVID, we thought we were on the mend as many other restaurants were. We were getting excited," Weiss said. "We had some events planned, live music in the works, and just feel some sense of normalcy that we've been longing for."
"Having this thrown in the mix, it sucks," Weiss said.
The city has dropped off large bins to help with the cleanup that could go on for weeks. Residents are expressing some relief brought on by an outpouring of community support.
Companies like Bradford Landscaping are donating their time, offering to help in any way they can.
"It's devastating, honestly," said Kevin Barber with Bradford Landscaping. "I know people who live in Barrie, so I felt inclined to want to help and felt the need to be involved."
Barrie's mayor is overwhelmed by the stockpile of supplies now filling the gym at Saint Gabriel the Archangel Catholic School.
"The outpouring of support is just mind-blowing. I have no words for the amount of physical donations and monetary donations," said Mayor Jeff Lehman.
"We have more than we will ever be able to give out, so thank you to Barrie for their generosity and everyone who dropped things off."
On Friday, officials asked for a pause on physical donations, directing anyone wanting to help to make a financial donation online to the Salvation Army.
A stockpile of snacks, bottled water, diapers and deodorant had also formed at Tracy Segura's home, which was spared the worst of the damage.
Segura, who owns the Creative Bean along with her husband Rene, set out a coffee stand on Friday.
Neighbours started dropping off donations. Owners of other businesses chipped in cash to cover the cost of coffee.
By Saturday morning, Segura had more donations than she knew what to do with. Volunteers fanned out to bring care packages to their neighbours.
"(We can) chit chat with them a little bit and, kind of get an idea of what they actually need so we can give it directly to them; they don't need to come to us," Segura said.
She drew parallels to the community support she felt when her husband was hospitalized with COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic.
"I wasn't sure if I would see him again. And the community, they stood beside me, they held my hand, they got me through," Segura said.
"Myself, Rene, Creative Bean, we want to do the same thing. Hold our community's hand. Support our community, the same way that they supported us."
with files from Kim Phillips