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Survey studies emotional toll of disasters two years after Barrie tornado


Two years ago, a devastating tornado ripped through a Southend Barrie neighbourhood; years later, families are still picking up the pieces.

Now, researchers at York University and the Northern Tornadoes Project (NTP) at the University of Western are teaming up to learn more about their emotional toll to help with future disaster responses.

A new survey recently went out to residents impacted by Barrie's tornado ahead of the 2nd anniversary on Saturday.

"These events are completely destabilizing for people, and they fundamentally change people, who they are," said Jennifer Spinney, an Assistant Professor in the Disaster and Emergency Management Program at York University. "Some of the emotional impacts that come alongside rebuilding people's homes or restoring their homes. You have all kinds of issues from the time of impact well into the weeks, months and even years after."

Spinney said research like theirs is relatively new for Canada but has been conducted in response to disasters in the United States.

With its survey, the team is hoping to understand better the impacts left by tornadoes on people in the weeks, months and years to come.

It offers a holistic approach to dealing with tornadoes," said David Sills, Executive Director of the NTP. "We don't have as much on the impacts and especially the impacts at a personal level, and through Jen's work, we're learning how much more impactful these things are."

Part of where the 2021 tornado hit in Barrie is in Barrie-Innisfil MPP Andrea Khanjin's riding.

"We've had discussions at the provincial level about harmonizing the building code - how can we strengthen our homes to be prepared for such natural disasters," Khanjin told CTV News Saturday. "For families, having a tornado kit prepared in your basement, talking to your family about the protocol, and just being a bit more vigilant as a homeowner."

Having kits ready could be even more important in the coming years. According to the NTP, a noticeable shift is happening regarding where tornadoes are touching down in Canada.

"We were expecting the most tornados to occur in the southern Prairies and, particularly, southern Saskatchewan," Sills said. "that was supposed to be where the bullseye was for tornado activity, but instead, we've been seeing eastern Ontario, southern Quebec year after year."

The poster publicizing the Barrie tornado survey that impacted residents can fill out by scanning the QR Code (supplied). Spinney added that they hope to hear from as many people as possible who were impacted two years ago. The survey, found online, is estimated to take roughly 25 minutes to complete. Top Stories

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