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Hurricane Hazel Impacts - Southern Ontario
In an area that stretches from Kitchener in the west to Ottawa in the east and from Toronto to Sudbury, the Bell Telephone Company estimated its damages at $400,000.
Follow the links below for more information on impacts in specific areas:
- Grand Valley
- James Bay
- New Tecumseth
- Rouge River
“The water came across the road. It should have gone under the road into the lake. But it came over the road and into our shop…and we opened the back door to let it out,” said Eileen Scruton owner of a cabinet shop on Bradford Street in Barrie. (Examiner, Barrie, Sept 16, 2003) Barrie also had many flooded basements and damage to roads and sewers that would add up to approximately $10,000.
I.S. McClure of the Municipal Detachment of Ontario Provincial Police at Barrie related his experience in Hazel:
“Our office had three lines and they rang continuously until about 9:00 p.m. when water must have gotten into them and they went dead. The calls were mostly from people whose houses were surrounded by water and who were requesting assistance. All I could do was advise them to remain inside until the water subsided. I had several calls from people who wanted to know if this was the end of the world–something which I was not in a position to answer.
“After the phones went out of order, I was sent on patrol. The amount of water visible was beyond comprehension. At the intersection of Collier and Clapperton streets, the flowing water swept a woman and child off their feet and carried them down the Clapperton Street hill. They were rescued by employees of Deluxe Taxi and taken into their office.
“The water in Kempenfeldt Bay (part of Lake Simcoe) had risen sufficiently to cover parts of Simcoe Street along the CNR railway tracks. At the foot of Mary Street, where it meets Simcoe Street, the water had undermined the railway tracks deep enough that a car would have been able to go under the tracks, which were four lines wide.
“At the highest point at the top of Bayfield Street Hill, I had a flat tire on the cruiser and subsequently received another soaking. The depth of water at the top of the hill on the pavement was about four inches. This to me was an unbelievable sight, because it was the very highest point of land in the area. It caused me to wonder where all the water could be coming from.
“A large storm sewer crosses Peel Street, but it was able to carry only a minute quantity of the water, so the extra ran above ground. It carried with it the front steps of a house on Peel Street, for almost a city block. When I refer to front steps, it was a solid block of cement, about six feet across and five feet high, with steps moulded into one side. The strangest thing about it was that it was left in an upright position with the railing still attached. Since the flood, now so many years ago, a large apartment building has been built on the very lowest part of the gully at Peel Street. When I pass it, I wonder what will become of it, should the Lord decide to send another flood.” (Kennedy, 1979)
Five people in two cars were killed when their automobiles were washed off a bridge. Jackson Glassford described the loss of Mr. And Mrs. Otto Haugh, Haugh’s Uncle John and friend Robert Edgar in the Boyne River as the boat was swept off the bridge into the river. The occupants clung to the car for four hours but were drowned when they were being rescued. Another man, Ervin Joyce, attempted to warn the Haughs of the danger. Joyce was also swept into the river and drowned.
“Just as the last one was getting in the boat, a wave hit and turned it over. We lost all four in the darkness.
“We had just about rescued them. We had tried to reach them with a boat and 175 feet of cable, but it couldn’t reach.
“We got another 25 feet and we all felt better when they grasped the boat. My son Allan was in the water up to his neck guiding the tow line. But then they were swept away.” (GM, October 18, 1954)
Streets were flooded (GM, October 16, 1954) and Frank J. Joyce was killed when the car he was driving left Highway 7 near Brampton and plunged into a 14-foot ditch. (GM, October 18, 1954)
Sixty families were forced to evacuate to avoid floodwaters. (GM, October 18, 1954)
Coldwater, a community located 12 miles west of Orilllia, was evacuated after the town was flooded.
1500 chickens owned by Colin Price of Cooksville were swept away on flats bordering the creek.
In Dufferin, a newly constructed hospital was damaged in the flood costing $10,000 as the water rose seven feet in the basement ruining chemicals, bandages, blankets, and other equipment. The hospital proceeded to open, but patients would not be allowed into the facility until December 1st.
South end residents were marooned as they were cut off from town by the Grand River which rose 10 inches in 20 minutes flooding the area. (GM, October 16, 1954)
Three people were rescued when their car stalled in a pool of water four feet deep. The heavy rainfall resulted in landslides on Mountain brow, which blocked off the Mountain block from James Street to Flock Street. Falling trees downed power lines and blocked the road linking the QEW. Underpasses at John Street and Victoria and Birch Avenues were flooded and James Street suffered cave-ins. Area basements were flooded. (GM, October 16, 1954)
Hazel passed the James Bay area near Moosonee bringing strong winds and precipitating snow in the northern areas.
The Tent city at the International Plowing match east of Kitchener was damaged.
Seventeen bridges were damaged or destroyed at a cost of $10,000 each. (Examiner, Barrie, Sept 16, 2003)
In Nobleton, 15 families were forced to evacuate as a swollen section of the Humber River overflowed.
Estimated damage in the Oakville area was $500,000 which included approximately 26 boats that were either sunk or damaged. (GM, October 18, 1954)
There was a black out in the town from Hazel. (GM, October 16, 1954)
In Ottawa at Lansdowne Park where the Argonauts were scheduled to play the Rough Riders, a fence was blown down by Hazel. Officials worried that many fans would pass through the hole in the fence without paying admission to the game as the break would not be repaired prior to game time.
George Auger, a 22 year old man from Hull Quebec, was electrocuted as he tried to move a tree that had fallen because of Hurricane Hazel, downing a power line.
The Rouge River east of Toronto also experienced flooding from Hazel. Ted Ryan described the flooding in the Rouge River Valley to Betty Kennedy,
“Shortly after 10:00 that night the phone rang. It was my friend and neighbour, Fred Hunt. He asked me if he could borrow my auto-top boat which we used for duck hunting as he had gotten word at the corner store there were one or two families stranded in the lower Rouge River due to flooding.
“Fred was at the house in a few minutes to pick up the boat and said he was headed to the foot of Island Road, which was the logical place to commence operations. I asked him to wait for me there until I got more appropriately dressed. When I was racing out the door, my wife, who was eight months pregnant, said, ‘Don’t you be going down the river in that boat.’ There was no way I was going to miss out on this adventure as the Rouge area was quite rural at this time and this sort of thing was one of our pleasures. Of course, I had in mind that we would serenely cruise down the river and, with some luck, possibly rescue a damsel in distress.
“When I arrived at the launching site, the scene was much different from what I had imagined. There were a few people gathered around one of the local fire trucks and the firemen (volunteers) were playing search lights down river, illuminating what appeared to be some cottages or houses in the distance. The wind was now a high-pitched scream. There was no river; the whole valley was a raging torrent trying to discharge itself into Lake Ontario, but was being partially dammed by the Rouge River railway trestle at its mouth.
“My boat was sitting at the water’s edge but Fred was not there. When I asked regarding his whereabouts, they said, ‘Oh, he’s gone down the river in another boat with one of the firemen.’ This made me angry to think that he would go without me, as we had spent many hours in boats together.
“Gil Read, the owner of the corner store, arrived on the scene and I asked him if he would go with me. Gil was a little reluctant–maybe he figured he had had enough close calls in the tank corps during the war and shouldn’t press his luck. In any event I talked him into it–and I may say here that I would not do it again, at least not in a twelve-foot canoe.
“Well, with the help of the firemen, we got the boat out into the water deep enough to mount the motor. Gil got in the front, myself in the back. Both of us are over six feet in height, weighing over two hundred pounds, so you can see we had a fair load to start with. After a few cranks the motor caught and we slowly moved out to the main stream.
“That was the last time we had any positive control over the boat. I knew we were in trouble, and it would be just a matter of time before we would upset.
“All sorts of things were tumbling downstream with us–pieces of houses, furniture, and I can remember one huge uprooted tree thrashing around just to the right of our path. We went past it at the right time, otherwise, we would have cracked like an eggshell.
“We were now running over people’s front lawns, which were eight feet under us, and then we ran into a tree. (Although we didn’t realize it at the moment, this tree saved our lives, and a few other lives, as we shall see.) I was able to hold onto a substantial branch of the tree which was at chest level. I don’t know what caused it, but the boat started to sink beneath us, and then, in seconds, the current whipped it away into the darkness.
“My tree limb was strong and, needless to say, I was holding on for dear life. Gil was not so fortunate. All he could grab was a light branch that was already starting to give way. We were both stretched out horizontally in the silly current, and this is where long legs can come in handy. Gil made a desperate lunge and managed to get a hold of my ankles and crawl slowly over me and then up into a higher branch of the tree. There we both were, sitting in the tree like a couple of wet owls, not too proud of our seamanship.
“In the meantime, Fred Hunt and Howard Morgan, in a boat not much larger than ours, had evacuated two women and we could now see them coming down the river again to pick up two youths who were standing in the upper window about thirty feet from where we sat perched in their tree. We could not make ourselves heard above the howling wind and at that time no one knew what had happened to us.
“We watched them load up the lads and a dog, and then nose their boat out to head upstream. About halfway between the house and our tree, what looked like a dog kennel came tossing and turning, hitting the nose of their boat, causing the current to force them right against our tree. We exchanged greetings, told our story, and chitchatted back and forth with all of us trying to figure out a solution to get their boat, which was broadside, nose upstream without capsizing it. Fred had handed a flashlight to me, with which I was making simulated Morse code signals upstream to make someone up there aware that we had problems.
“Moments later I happened to shine the light into their boat. Water was pouring over the back, and within thirty seconds we had six bodies in the tree. The boat disappeared with the dog and I never did find out if he survived. To my knowledge the dog was the only casualty on the Rouge River during Hurricane Hazel. We were all shuttled to safety eventually with a more powerful boat driven by Murray Brown of Murdon Marine, Port Carling. Murray was a volunteer fireman in West Rouge at that time.
“I went to work the next morning, a Saturday, remorseful over the loss of my boat and motor. In the afternoon, I went down to the Rouge and was greatly surprised to see that the water had completely receded, leaving a devastation of caved-in houses and cottages with a layer of silt two to three inches thick over the whole valley.
“I walked down the road toward our saviour tree, which was an odd-shaped cedar, and the last time I was down that way, it was still there. A little further on, there was my boat caught in a wire fence with the motor attached, and of course full of silt. Jammed under the seat was an Eveready lamp, still faintly glowing.” (Kennedy, 1979; p. 73-77)
Early damage estimates for the community added up to $250,000. Damage reported included holes in sidewalks, undermined bridges, flooding along Main street, a planning mill ripped from its foundation, washouts on a parking lot that dropped cars into the newly formed hole.
A car plunged into the Don when a culvert on Highway 11 north of Highway 7 was washed away. The three occupants were rescued.
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