'The noise was like a freight train,' Barrie tornado victim sought refuge in car
Connie Barszcz was dropping off a package to a friend's home in Barrie ahead of the storm on July 15, but by the time she got there, the weather had taken a turn for the worse.
Her friend wasn't home, and the winds were rapidly picking up speed, leaving Barszcz to seek refuge in her car.
"I thought I was going to die," she says. "That's why I was calling my husband. I just wanted to say goodbye.
I just felt like this was going to be the end of it, and part of me wanted to jump out of the car to find somewhere better to be, but really it was the best place for me to be."
Experts said it was an EF-2 tornado that ripped through the city's southeast neighbourhood, tearing second-storeys from homes, flipping vehicles and uprooting trees.
Barszcz says she considers the fact that she is alive today a miracle.
"It was just like looking in a snowball. It was like you could not see anything, and the noise was like a freight train," she says. "All I could hear was things smashing into my car, smashing into houses."
As the community continues to pick up the pieces, emergency services ask those who don't live in the tornado-stricken area to stay away.
"This isn't a sight-seeing event," says Derek Wilson, the assistant deputy fire chief for Barrie Fire and Emergency Services.
"This is, people's lives were significantly disrupted, and if we could respect the process that they are going through, it would be really encouraged and appreciated," he adds.
CITY SEEKS PROVINCIAL RELIEF FUNDING
The City of Barrie is unsure whether it will receive emergency funding from the province following the tornado 10 days ago.
As of Monday, 70 unsafe orders remain in effect on homes in the area of Prince William Way in the city's southeast end.
The city hired a contractor to chip the debris from trees left out on the curb as homeowners and volunteers continue to work towards getting some of the hardest-hit neighbourhoods back to normal.
"It's a slow rebuild, I guess you could say," says Mike Nicoloff, who has spent most of the last 10 days helping his brother-in-law pick up the pieces after the tornado hit his home. "Right now, it's cleaned up quite a bit. It really doesn't give you the full story unless you're there when it happened, and it's incredible."
The city expects to receive confirmation whether it will qualify for Ontario's Disaster Relief Assistance Program (ODRAP) in the coming days. ODRAP works towards helping cities, individuals, farmers, and non-profits recover following a disaster.
"For some of the folks, this is going to be a longer-term recovery," Deputy Fire Chief Derek Wilson says.
"Some of the buildings were very, very badly damaged and will need significant reconstruction. So some of those folks are looking at months probably, not weeks in their recovery," he notes.
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