1985 - BARRIE MOURNS DEAD. SEARCH GOES ON FOR MORE BODIES.
Barrie, Ont. (CP) - A grim, building-by-building search continued yesterday for more possible victims of a cluster of violent tornadoes that ripped like chainsaws across parts of Ontario Friday.
By sundown yesterday, the death toll in the strip of south-central Ontario that took the brunt of the twisters' fury was at least 12 as still numb residents picked through the debris of what had been their homes and belongings 24 hours earlier.
Included in the known death toll were eight victims in Barrie and four in other Ontario communities devastated by the brief but lethal twisters that roared out of a storm that was spawned over the Great Lakes Friday afternoon.
Four of the Barrie victims were children.
One police official said he feared additional bodies might be found in the rubble of more than 200 homes and factories in a normally pleasant subdivision set on rolling land near the south end of Barrie, about 100 kilometres north of Toronto.
Judy Mustoe, nursing administration supervisor at Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie, said 154 people were treated there for injuries suffered during the tornado's three-minute onslaught.
Mustoe said 11 victims with serious or critical injuries had been transferred to three Toronto hospitals.
A Red Cross spokesman said that as well as the 12 victims killed by injuries directly inflicted by the storm, an elderly woman died of a heart attack believed berought on when the high winds blew in the window of her room in a senior citizens' lodge.
The Ontario deaths were in addition to 76 in three U.S. states also hit by a scattershot blast of tornadoes, generated by the same wide-ranging weather system that spanned from the Barrie area through Pennsylvania.
Ontario damage estimates were not completed but Premier Frank Miller, who toured the scene yesterday morning with two cabinet ministers, said it was "in the millions and millions of dollars - that's all you can say."
Miller declared the tornado's path a disaster area and told a news conference he had called an emergency cabinet meeting for tomorrow to discuss provincial aid to the stricken area. Federal help was promised as well be Revenue Minister Perrin Beatty, named by Prime Minister Mulroney to advise on the disaster.
Residents were allowed into the devastated neighborhood - patrolled by police and Canadian Forces personnel brought in to guard against looting - for two hours yesterday afternoon to remove their belongings.
They found their homes - or what remained of them - marked with large fluorescent orange X's indicating they had been searched for bodies. Many homes also had white tags which signified they had been condemned by city building inspectors.
Some of the homes were completely flattened. Others were hollow shells with curtains flapping forlornly through broken windows.
The neighborhood was strewn with branches, pieces of metal, wood and insulation, and chain saws buzzed as fallen trees were cut into chunks for removal.
Most of the residents worked quietly in the sunny, gusty weather, removing furniture and carboard boxes full of possessions that had survived the destruction.
Some, like Carl and Liz Thomas, were standing outside their ruined home still shaken by the fury and power of the tornado.
Mrs. Thomas said she was in the living room of their split-level house discussing with two of her children - aged 18 and 12 - what to have for supper "when I felt pressure in my ears ... and heard the noise coming."
"I whipped the children downstairs and sheltered them," she said. "There was a very loud noise of timbers and glass breaking and more pressure on our ears. It seemed to last for three hours."
"All hell let loose," said Austin Ayerst, a 57-year-old letter carrier who was alone in his house when the twister hit.
"I looked in the sky and saw all the debris. I thought it was birds at first. All you could hear was breaking glass and the roar of the wind," said Syerst, who hid in his basement while the tornado spun overhead.
Many residents and businesses were quick to contribute a mountain of food, clothing and medicine to homeowners who lost most of their belongings.
The supplies were distributed by volunteers at the Barrie Armory -- where many homeless residents met Friday night -- and at the Salvation Army centre.
Marketing consultant, Murray Locke, 60, said he felt "a feeling of awe" when he drove through the subdivision after the twister had hit. "It wasn't a feeling of having any feeling for people, but the force that could completely demolish the houses."
At Locke's house, a rafter torn from a neighbor's home slammed through the roof and into the family room.
Daniel Tuck, a volunteer who worked overnight Friday searching homes for victims, said he found a wall of costly Royal Doulton china standing untouched in a house that had been reduced to ruins.
The tornado "seemed to just pick and choose what it would hit," he said.
Winnipeg Free Press
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
June 2, 1985
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