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Hurricane Hazel Impacts - Transportation

Trains

A train hit a washout at Southampton plunging three cars into a ditch and miring others in mud. Stewart Nicholson, a Canadian National Railway (CNR) fireman died from burns and other injuries as the locomotive overturned. Gordon McCallum and Mrs. William Whittaker were injured in the crash. McCallum would later die from his injuries. Bertha Whittaker remembered the windows disintegrating during the crash. “I was sitting there with water running around me and blood running down my face. I sat there and prayed, for an indefinite time, until the firemen rescued me.” (MacLean’s, 1999)

Two trains were delayed because of washouts stranding 158 passengers. Ninety passengers were transferred to buses and transported to Agincourt, where they then could board another train to take them to Union station. Another commuter train left Toronto, stopped in Markham to pick up passengers and continued past Lindsay, where Frank J. Nobbs, a farmer, recalled: “We didn’t hear a thing, not a sound. There was no crash or sound of a wreck. First thing we know, someone ran to our door shouted ‘there’s been a wreck.’” (TS, October 16, 1954)

Engineer Ted Barrett reported that as the engine crossed a section of track that had the dirt, gravel, and sodding washed out from under it by a creek that had flooded to a torrent, “The engine started to settle and it dragged the two front cars with it. My fireman and I jumped as it turned and we were able to wade back to dry ground.” (TS, October 16, 1954)

Trains carried many more passengers than normal after the storm. The CNR recorded 14,000 commuters, compared to the normal 1000 from the west to Toronto. The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) reported thousands more on shuttle buses, but the Yonge Street subway trains were not affected. On Canadian Pacific Railways (CPR), conductors could not pass the clogged aisles to collect fares from passengers. A spokesperson made this statement, “In view of the situation, the collection of fares became secondary. Getting the people where they had to go was the important thing.” (TS, October 18, 1954) After Hazel approximately 35,000 people arrived in Toronto from CPR and CNR commuter trains.

Roads

At the Cookstown Cloverleaf on Highway 400, 350 people were marooned at a service station. The road was washed out south of the location at Bradford and just north of the service station where a 20 foot gap had opened on the road. Highway 12 from Midland to Orillia was under three to four feet of water. There were major washouts on highways 400 and 11.

Traffic approaching Toronto from the west was halted as the Bloor Bridge over the Humber was threatened (see photo). The Humber Bloor Bridge was reduced to one lane and the Lake Shore Bridge was closed. Traffic was turned back at the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW), Highway 5, and Lake Shore Road. Traffic was lined up to Cooksville attempting to cross the bridge. A bridge over the Don River on John Street, York Mills, between Bayview Avenue and Yonge Street was washed out

High Water Mark on Bloor Street Bridge (photo: Rebecca Hanson)
High Water Mark on Bloor Street Bridge (photo: Rebecca Hanson)

Forty bridges were destroyed or structurally damaged and ten were out of commission because of damage to the approaches including:

  • Lake Shore Humber Bridge
  • Highway 7 bridge west of Highway 50
  • Lawrence Avenue Bridge, Weston
  • Highway 2 Bridge at Port Credit
  • Highway 400 at Willow Creek
  • Highway 11 north of Thornhill
  • 2 culverts north and south of Thornton, Highway 27
  • 1 culvert east of Stayner on Highway 26
  • 3 culverts Highway 400 between Cookston and Barrie
  • 7 bridges in North York
  • 11 bridges in Markham
  • 10 bridges in Scarborough
  • Highway 49 at Kleinberg
  • 3 bridges in Markham had their approaches washed out
  • 6 bridges in Scarborough

Road damage caused long term economic disruption. Bailey bridges had to be erected to cope with the transportation problems. The Lake Shore Bridge was reopened to buses and pedestrians only after a bailey bridge was installed at the site. The bridge at Hogg’s Hollow, damaged by Hazel, collapsed.

City planners feared that emergency plans to facilitate transporting people across Toronto’s rivers and streams would encourage more people to abandon public transportation in favour of their own vehicles, a move that would increase traffic woes. This created problems for areas that form bottlenecks, such as the Bloor Street Bridge. Four roads remained closed while others had detours.

Damaged roads and bridges were repaired before winter, but the temporary fixes were not strong enough to resist the effects of the thaw. Temporary fill that was used to repair washouts subsided, in some locations dropping vehicles up to their axles in mud. A four lane bridge had to be reduced to one lane so construction crews could relocate the bridge by 18 feet [5.5 m] and add a 10 foot [3.1 m] span to secure one side of the bridge. This was necessary after a chain holding the bridge snapped. Highway 401’s bridge over the Humber was reopened with modifications including shore foundations that were sited farther in from the banks and the addition of three central supports.

The proposed highway site (Gardiner Expressway) was changed following Hazel because officials decided that had a more southerly course been built prior to the flood, the bridge would have been destroyed, eventually to be washed out into Lake Ontario. There were major traffic jams at the one bridge remaining over the Humber River that was safe to cross. People were advised by police to, “Get as far north as you can before attempting to cross the Humber in either direction.” (TS, October 18, 1954)

Boats

In Oakville, 25 boats were swept into Lake Ontario, including four cruisers and the Harbour Master’s boat. The National Yacht Club estimated damage to their facilities and boats at $100,000. Jim Scott Jr., the owner of a boathouse at the base of Etobicoke Creek, estimated his loss from damage to his home, boathouse, and boats at $30,000.

The Harbour Master’s boat lost from Oakville in the storm was hauled into Hamilton and became a ward of the court. The company that salvaged the vessel attempted to claim ownership, but the owners argued that since the vessel was lost because of Hurricane Hazel, an ‘Act of God,’ the vessel was not abandoned; therefore, salvage rights could not be recognized.

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