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Hurricane Hazel Impacts - Greater Toronto Area
- Golf courses suffered approximately $50,000 in damage from silt deposited from floodwaters in Lambton, Rosedale, Islington, and Scarborough.
- A sign marquee advertising the movie Gone with the Wind was blown down by the wind from Hazel! (GM, October 18, 1954)
- Mount Dennis Paramount Cleaners offered to clean clothes of victims of the flood from Weston, Long Branch, Thistletown, Woodbridge, and other areas for free as compensation for their struggle.
- The Canadian National Exhibition sent floodlights to the Bloor Bridge to assist in the search for bodies in the debris strewn river.
- Radio ham operators established and maintained communication networks. Squads headed to Bradford, Woodbridge, Aurora, Weston, Scarborough and patrolled the Humber with Walkie Talkies aiding search for bodies.
- On the Humber Flats 80 people were rescued from the Hazel flood and along the Highland Creek 17 cottages were washed into the creek as it flooded.
Kenneth Cheetham described his experiences in Hurricane Hazel with Betty Kennedy saying of the initial warnings, that he had been, “dismissing them as just a means of increasing circulation in a slack period.”
“After supper I took my four-year-old and two of his sisters for an adventurous excursion along Hollywood Avenue. We were stopped dead in our tracks about one block from home. A culvert under the street which normally transported a mere trickle of muddy water through a lush growth of weeds was now a white-capped torrent roaring over the parapet a couple of feet above sea level and completely impassable.”
“I’d always thought of a flood as something that rose gradually, like the tide, from which you could escape when it reached an unacceptable height, albeit with sacrifice of material possessions. But Hazel was not a tide, but a tidal wave, sweeping unprepared and unsuspecting people to their deaths in a matter of moments. Maybe most major disasters happen like this–they sneak up on you unexpectedly.” (Kennedy, 1979; p.61-62)
Dr. Mark Boyes was driving home when he learned that the rainstorm was a hurricane. “When I reached the corner of Bathurst Street and Lawrence Avenue the intersection was quite flooded and there was a lone lady standing at a bus stop--the water was well above her ankles. I stopped and offered her a ride, which she gladly accepted. She stated that she had just been to the hairdresser ‘and look at me now !’ I remarked that it was a very heavy rainstorm and she burst forth: ‘This is no rainstorm; this is a hurricane!’ I still could not believe that it could be so drastic, but she assured me that she had heard reports on the radio.” (Kennedy, 1979; p.48)
Nancy Hubbert and her husband had an adventure the night of Hazel and relayed the story to Betty Kennedy:
“On the night of Hazel, my husband (who doesn’t believe in weather reports) suggested it might be nice to go up to Willowdale and visit friends. We duly hired a local youngster to baby-sit, whose mother had a comment or two to make about our sanity, and off we went. In the general vicinity of the Golden Mile, my husband decided the driver’s door was rattling rather alarmingly and probably was not tightly closed, so he opened it to give it a good slam. Immediately it was wrenched off its hinges and took off into space. Frantically aware of the fact that this was a borrowed car, he was out in a flash, chasing the door until it came to rest, leaning against a truck in the parking lot. What to do! It obviously had to be removed to a safe place, so forgetting that he is a rather short, slight man, he picked it up by its sides to try to get it back to the car. Of course a tremendous gust came along at the worst possible moment and suddenly there was the father of my children sailing through the air, madly clutching the door as it carried him through space, and I was collapsed in helpless laughter unable to offer even a small measure of help.
“When he finally came to rest, miraculously still on his feet, he found himself just outside the local drug store – Tamblyn’s, I think – which was the only place still open in the plaza, and he made his way inside where he explained his predicament to the clerk and asked if he might leave the car door there until another day. As there was nothing in her rule book to cover such exigencies she decided it would probably be O.K., these being unusual circumstances, so between the two of them they managed to wrestle the door inside and lean it up against a display case. We then slowly and carefully inched our way home again, to our rented house, and our children, and our not too surprised baby-sitter, in our car with one door – and didn’t venture out again for two days.” (Kennedy, 1979; p. 49-50)
Mrs. Betty Dewar was riding home on the bus when Toronto began to flood from the rains of Hazel. “Going through one gully the water came up onto the floor. After we reached higher ground the driver simply opened the door and let the water run out. We found it very funny.” (Kennedy, 1979; p. 50)
Many of the residents of Toronto that did not reside near the rivers did not immediately realize the severity of the storm and the ensuing flood. Ken Steele described his impressions of the night of the storm and the morning after,
“I would say that it must have been around 10:30 or 11:00 that night that while walking home, alone, on Dovercourt Road, I noticed something strange in the air. It was the eeriest feeling that I have ever experienced and it has not happened to me since. It was extremely quiet, the weather mild. There was a great stillness in the air–nothing seemed to move around me. I remember looking up at the trees–not a leaf trembled. No automobiles, even, that I was aware of. (Of course, traffic was much lighter in those days.) I felt I was in a vacuum. Upon arriving home, I thought no more of it.
“The next morning (Saturday) another surprise was in store for me. When I awakened and turned on the bedside radio, I honestly thought I was listening to an Orson Welles play–the announcer was talking very excitedly about houses being swept down the river with people clinging to the rooftops, pandemonium everywhere. It was only when he mentioned the Humber River that I came to my full senses and realized it was for real.” (Kennedy, 1979; p. 61)
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