The Barrie Tornado of July 15, 2021


Thursday, July 15, 2021. The severe weather forecast called for the possibility of severe storms, hail, damaging winds, frequent lightning, flash flooding, and some tornadoes across portions of Southern Ontario.  Although morning showers made the initiation of storms seem questionable, by early afternoon the atmosphere was primed. Instability (fuel to get storms going) had built, wind shear (change in wind direction with height) was strong, and a lifting mechanism (the cold front) was approaching.

Shortly after lunch, storms began to develop. They formed to the area north of Mt Forest, quickly becoming strong and approaching severe levels as they raced to the east toward the city of Barrie.

At 1:43 PM, Instant Weather first issued a “Minor Rotation Detected” update which mentioned that storms near Creemore were showing signs of rotation and moving towards the Barrie area:

What had been a cluster of storms consolidated into two supercells which tracked ENE toward an increasingly-favourable environment for tornado development. At 2:30 PM, Travis Farncombe issued a cautionary message as a strong area of rotation developed and headed toward Barrie:

At the same time, Instant Weather issued a “Rotation Detected” update notifying folks in Barrie to get to shelter, and Dave Sills tweeted about the increasingly-serious situation. Several others took to social media as radar scans became more and more ominous and it became apparent that a tornado was likely ongoing.

Within minutes, a tornado spun up in the south end of Barrie. Adam Skinner from Instant Weather was covering the storm live on social media as it unfolded, checking in with storm chasers live streaming on Highways & Hailstones, as they tracked another supercell south of Barrie, near Alliston, which was also showing signs of rotation:  

Unfortunately, for many in south Barrie, a strong, damaging, and terrifying tornado was on the ground. It was tearing homes apart, shattering windows, ripping away roofs and entire second storeys, exploding garages, and flipping over vehicles. It was reported that one person at an open job site took a piece of wood to the arm with trauma. Another said he hid in a bulldozer and felt so incredibly lucky that he remained safe. 

At 2:38 PM, several minutes after the tornado touched down, Environment Canada issued an official Tornado Warning for the storm. Unfortunately, the Tornado Warning initially came in with no information of the countless ground reports that a large dangerous tornado was on the ground:

Residents captured terrifying videos as the tornado whipped through densely-populated subdivisions along Mapleview Drive.

It is always tragic to see what damage an upper-end EF2 tornado can do to a heavily and densely populated area. In these rare circumstances, there is always debris, often structures remain standing with walls intact, and many roofs, garages, cars, and fences are destroyed:

Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman said a total of 11 people suffered injuries but thankfully, none of them were considered life-threatening:

This rescue effort was a major undertaking, requiring urban search and rescue, Fire, EMS, Police, and Emergency Management. From what we have heard, they all acted heroically, helping those in need. It was stated: “their operations were flawless.” 


NTP: via Twitter 


  • Meteorologist Jason Brand