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Workers thrown by tornado home safe and sound

Don Wall
Workers thrown by tornado home safe and sound
PACE — Pace Homes site clerk Stephen Galyen (right) was greeted warmly by co-workers on his return to Pace’s Urban North residential construction site in Barrie, Ont. the day after he was injured during a tornado.

Three construction workers who were inside a construction trailer thrown 100 feet during a tornado strike in Barrie, Ont. July 15 are all safely home and one of them has even been back on  the jobsite.

Pace Homes site supervisors Stephen Galyen and Chris Russo and site clerk Eddie Amelard did not have time to take shelter when the tornado, rated EF-2 with winds up to 210 kilometres per hour, hit their south Barrie construction site. Their colleagues, working out of harm’s way, scrambled to the trailer when the storm had passed and found them bloodied and requiring hospital attention.

Pace COO Pamela Ventresca reported July 20 that all are recovering well.

“I’m happy to report that all three men are home with their families,” stated Ventresca. “They’re safely home from the hospital.”

Only Amelard required an overnight hospital stay.

The tornado touched down around 2:30 p.m. and wreaked damage over a path five kilometres long and 100 metres wide. Homes along Huronia Road, Mapleview Drive, Prince William Way and Beatrice Avenue, among others, were damaged. Besides the Pace new-homes site, property being developed by Pratt Homes also reported damaged.

Galyen, relatively uninjured, paid a visit to Pace’s Urban North jobsite the day after the tornado hit.

The Canadian Press reported July 19 that Barrie Police were set to open up the district damaged by the twister at noon that day after cleanup had progressed well. The worst-hit areas were cordoned off immediately after the storm blew through but public lands were cleared off by Sunday.

The city said an information centre near a local school would remain open for those still needing help.

A Salvation Army resource centre for affected residents will also wrap up this week, though the charity was still taking donations.

Homeowners had been asked to stay away from the area during recovery efforts.

Ontario’s Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) issued guidelines for homeowners returning to their homes, while Alectra, the power supplier for the region, warned at least one scammer posing as an Alectra employee was going door to door asking for payment for inspections.

The scammer had an Alectra “door hanger” notice, typically left on customer doors, and was claiming to represent the utility. Alectra urged homeowners to contact local law enforcement if they encountered the fraudster.

While major power infrastructure had been cleaned up, the ESA warned that storms can cause damage to the equipment owned by customers that connects their homes to the electricity grid. Licensed electrical contractors are the only workers authorized to replace damaged customer-owned equipment, stated the ESA.

“Our inspectors are working closely with utilities and licensed electrical contractors to ensure storm-damaged homes are reconnected in a safe manner to avoid the risk of electrical shock or fire, or further property damage,” said Joel Moody, ESA chief public safety officer.

The ESA urged homeowners to wait until the power is off or powerlines are fixed before starting yard cleanup. Downed powerlines may be hidden beneath debris. They are also encouraged to check the electrical service mast and the wires in it to see if the mast was pulled away from the wall, broken or detached from the meter base. They should contact a licensed service provider in the event of sagging wires or similar damage.

As for home repairs, local constructor Gary van Bolderen, owner of Dutch Master Construction Services and a volunteer executive with the Barrie Construction Association, the Canadian Farm Builders Association and the Council of Ontario Construction Associations over decades, warned homeowners not to panic as they survey the damage to their homes.

“First of all, calm down, take your time to talk to your insurance guy and see how much money you’re able to play with,” he said. “And then, my advice would be to use somebody local. I think there’s benefits to dealing with somebody local who’s probably interested in long-term reputation and not quick turnaround on the dollar.”

Reputable contractors, ideally associated with an organization like the Barrie Construction Association, are more likely to work safely and be around in future if follow-up is needed.

“Use their lists of members because chances are a person who’s interested in joining an association is interested in safety, interested in WSIB coverage, insurance and all that stuff.”  

— With files from The Canadian Press


Follow the author on Twitter @DonWall_DCN.

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