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No Tornados, No Floods, No Earthquakes – We’re Lucky in the County

Destroyed house in Barrie. Terry Sprague photo

It was yesterday, May 31st, exactly 25 years ago, when the city of Barrie experienced a devastating F4 tornado. Although I wasn’t there, I remember the day very well. I was a Park Naturalist at Sandbanks and was on my way home at 5:00 p.m. The lights had been flickering and I made an off the cuff remark to one of my cohorts that “somebody must be getting a storm!” It wasn’t until I reached County Road 6, just past the White Chapel, that I noticed the sickly pea green colour of the sky. I knew nothing about tornados, but I remember thinking to myself, that the sky looked absolutely volatile. When I reached home, I saw a bird house swinging rhythmically from a hook on the sundeck as though set in perpetual motion by some unseen force.  At the same time, I noticed our 8’ ornamental windmill, the upper assembly first facing west, its blades awhirl, then it swung around and faced east, then back again west, as though unable to make up its mind. I expressed my concern to my wife. It was then, I heard about the tornado that had flattened a portion of Barrie at 5:30 p.m. Some weeks later, I toured the area with a friend who lived there, but who had managed to escape its path, and marvelled at the storm’s strength, some houses totally demolished leaving only an empty basement, while nearby homes went unscathed. I saw a car frame snagged ignominiously on the lower limb of a tree, its rear bumper resting on the ground; everything was gone except the frame – even the engine, but the hub caps were still firmly in place. I learned that the car had been a functioning vehicle before the tornado. I toured the area again a few years ago, and today there is nothing to suggest that anything had ever happened. Barrie recovered admirably, although there are many who will never forget that fierce storm, especially those who lost family members. It makes me appreciate Prince Edward County that much more, and that we don’t experience the devastation of tornados, earthquakes and floods as neighbouring communities have in the past.

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About the Author: Terry Sprague became interested in nature at an early age. "Growing up on the family farm at Big Island, 12 miles north of Picton, on the shore of the beautiful Bay of Quinte, I was always interested in the natural world around me. During my elementary school days at the small one-room school I attended on Big Island, I received considerable encouragement from the late Marie Foster, my teacher in Grades 6 through 8. Her home was a short distance from where I lived and through the years she was responsible for developing my interest in birds. The late Phil Dodds, a former editor with the Picton Gazette, also a great nature enthusiast, suggested I undertake a nature column - a column I have submitted weekly since 1965. The column has since expanded to the Napanee Beaver and the Tweed News. Life has been good, and through the years I have enjoyed working with such nature related agencies as Glenora Fisheries Research as a resource technician, Sandbanks Provincial Park as a park interpreter and Quinte Conservation as a naturalist and outdoor events coordinator. As a nature interpreter, currently working from my home office, I now create and lead numerous interpretive events in the area and offer indoor audio/visual presentations to interested groups. Could one who is interested in nature have enjoyed a more exhilarating period in the work force?" Terry's website is

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  1. Sedona says:

    I was just thinking about tornados in the County prior to our trip there and then, we arrive home
    here and a earthquake and tornado Midland area. We never know for sure, though. 🙂


  2. Louisa says:

    And I remember a day that was as recent as a year or so ago, coming home along Rednersville Road, and there was this huge, long, rolling grey cloud mass…it was just turning over and over into itself and it was really quite unnerving! I got pictures out the sunroof of the car (yes, as I was driving. Didn’t want to stop for anything, just get home). Too bad I can’t post them here. Reminders that formidable mother nature is always with us!

  3. Borys Holowacz says:

    It was not the same day 25 years ago, but sometime back then. I remember getting out of my car when travelling the 404 north of Toronto to view an eery sky in anticipation of something unexpected.

    Well nothing did happen, but your description reminded me of the surroundings I found myself in. No big wind though. Everything seemed to still and become quiet. I had a sense of the end. But then this sky past and my normal work day resumed; I got back in my car and headed north to Newmarket.

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