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Experts want hurricane straps on Ontario homes to prevent destruction in severe weather

Barrie, Ont. -

Following the EF2 tornado in the south end of Barrie that left a trail of destruction so damaging it could take years to rebuild, experts are now questioning the strength of Ontario's building code.

"When it comes to downward forces like the weight of snow on a roof, for example, our code is very good at addressing those downward forces," said Glenn McGillivray, Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction.

"In a wind storm, particularly a tornado, that roof wants to get sucked up, and the code doesn't really address those upward sucking forces very well, or at all, and we want to see that changed," McGillvray added.

According to Canada's property and casualty insurance industry, wind is the most significant driver of disaster losses after water damage, and it can quickly turn deadly.

"This is how people get injured and killed," said McGillivray. "Not so much by the wind itself, but by flying debris- we're talking about chunks of roofs and other chunks of buildings."

The July 15 tornado in Barrie prompted a renewed push for the province to include hurricane straps, ties or screws into the building code to help protect roofs and reduce damage.

"That would go a long way to both better enforcement and better building practices," said a lead researcher with the Northern Tornados Project, Greg Kopp.

But experts say that's only one piece of the puzzle.

"We want to ensure that no only is the roof properly connected to the walls, we also want to ensure that the upper floor is connected well to the main floor and the main floor is connected properly to the foundation," McGillivray said. "It's called and continuous load path."

In mid-July, wind speeds reached 210 kilometres per hour, as the EF-2 twister damaged upwards of 200 homes and injured 11 people in the Prince William Way area of the city..

Seventy homes still have unsafe orders, and roughly 20 roofs were ripped from houses.

Last year, Ontario led the country with 44 tornados, and since 1985, three major ones have touched down in or near Barrie.

"The area between Windsor and Lake Simcoe, sometimes we refer to it as little tornado alley," said senior climatologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, David Phillips.

As cities grow, Phillips said we could see more destruction in the future.

"Because we see more urban sprawl, larger cities and more Canadians are living in cities, it's more likely tornadoes will find targets to hit," he noted. "So those little guys of the past could be more impactful, more damaging, more destructive, more killers in the future."

Right now, the Canadian Standards Association is in the process of developing a standard for factoring in extreme winds in the construction of new homes across the country.

Experts are calling it a big step in the process of changing Ontario's building code. Top Stories

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