Hurricane Hazel - Impacts

Hurricane Hazel impacted people and communities throughout Toronto and Southern Ontario when it struck the night of October 15, 1954. Rivers were inundated by the heavy rainfall and their waters rose rapidly, barrelling with tremendous force down the river valleys. The rapid flooding caught many area residents by surprise as they had no recollection of floods of Hazel’s magnitude. Therefore, despite repeated warnings regarding the amount of rain expected, residents were unable to imagine how that might affect them. Many people were drowned escaping from their homes, were washed off roads, or were washed down the river while still in their homes. The hardest hit communities were the Holland Marsh, Raymore Drive and Woodbridge on the Humber, and Long Branch on Etobicoke Creek. Impacts were distributed throughout communities in Southern Ontario such as Barrie, Beeton, Hamilton, and Oakville and even as far away as Ottawa.

Perhaps the hardest hit infrastructure were the many bridges Toronto had to facilitate transportation around the city. As floodwaters rose in the river, debris was entrained by the rushing waters and forced against the abutments of area bridges, eventually either destroying the bridges or rendering them unsafe. Bridges acted as temporary dams, which increased the force of the water when it broke through the dam and continued downstream.

Roads and railway lines suffered washouts north of the city causing traffic delays and deaths. Several people were swept through washouts and off bridges into the swollen rivers; some were rescued and others drowned. While marinas were damaged because of strong winds and floodwaters, the accuracy of the weather forecasts prevented more damage to boats in the lake because mariners typically heed weather warnings.

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