Barrie tornado: Some homes damaged by Barrie, Ont., tornado not up to code, researchers say


Researchers with Northern Tornadoes Project (NTP) are surveying the damage in a Barrie, Ont., neighbourhood after an EF-2 tornado touched down last week and said they believe some of the destruction was preventable.

In all, 71 homes were deemed uninhabitable, and roughly 100 people were displaced.

According to Dr. Connell Miller, a researcher with NTP, much of the damage caused by the powerful storm may not have happened if certain protocols were followed.

“We saw non-successive failures, and what I mean by that is usually your shingles get ripped off before the roof, which gets ripped off before the walls,” he said. “But we saw walls ripped off before roofs and shingles and things like that, which is a sign of insufficient construction.”

During an inspection last Thursday, researchers said they found many of the Prince William Way-area houses didn’t have proper roof-to-wall connections.

According to Miller, the building code requires homes to have three toenails at each of the roof-to-wall connections, and at least one house, in particular, did not. “And that’s why you saw roofs ripped off maybe when they didn’t have to be ripped off,” he added.

On Wednesday, Miller and the Winds Impact Research Drone Team launched a drone over the impacted area.

The drone took thousands of photos, which will be stitched to create a 3D map to help the team catalogue the damage caused by the twister.

The general manager of infrastructure and growth management with the City of Barrie, Andrea Miller, said in a statement, “The city follows a documented and approved process to issue permits and inspect construction.

The building code specifies mandated inspections, which the constructor is obligated to call the city to conduct.

Our process meets these obligations under the Building Code Act and reflects industry best practice.

The city is not in a position now, or after the tornado, to verify firsthand/on-site the physical state of homes for the following reasons:

  1. The city does not have the authority to enter the home for an after the fact inspection, only to issue the Unsafe Order.
  2. Property owners/insurance companies will be getting reports from their own engineering companies to address an Unsafe Order or other concerns.
  3. The city’s responsibility is to review and assess the Engineering Report.
  4. It is likely that interior finishes will need to be removed to fully assess any structural damage. The city is not able to do that work.
  5. Inspection jurisdiction for repair work is limited to the repair and not broader investigations.”

The city said it would respond with building permit information for the affected homes, as requested through the appropriate process, although this will take time to retrieve archived files.

Meanwhile, NTP said it could take months to analyze the footage from Wednesday’s drone.

“This was a fairly significant event with a lot of structural damage. Damage that just goes through croplands, forests, things like that – it’s a bit faster to analyze just because there’s not as much detailed structural connections that we need to look at, but an event like this, we could be looking at it for months and research could be done on it for years,” Dr. Connell Miller added.

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