Hurricane Hazel - 50 years later October 1954 Hurricane Hazel


Chronology of Storm Events / Hazel Affects Transportation / The Effects of Hazel on Toronto Area Communities / Southern Ontario Impacts /
Recovery / Lives that were Taken

Chronology of Storm Events

October 15, 1954

  • The Dominion Weather Office tracked Hurricane Hazel
  • Information was disseminated from the office throughout the day and the chief meteorologist, Fred Turnbull, provided many interviews to local radio and print reporters.
  • Few people had personal knowledge of hurricanes and the associated impacts, therefore, they did not act accordingly.
  • By 4:30 p.m., rain began to fall heavily, resulting in traffic problems in the evening rush hour.
  • Underpasses began to collect water, complicating the evening commute; however, by 7:00 p.m. the traffic had mostly cleared in Toronto and Etobicoke, and the city was rather peaceful.
  • "The worst is yet to come. This is the pause that always comes during a hurricane. The wind and rain will reach their peak by 11:00," said Fred Turnball (Hurricane Hazel, by Betty Kennedy, 1979).
  • Highways began to suffer washouts by 9:00 p.m. Between Bradford and Toronto, Highway 11 was cut in six places by the floodwaters, and throughout the region, creeks were forming where they never had before.
  • Highway 400 heading north was dissected near Bradford, in the Holland Marsh area.

    Highway 400

    Floods washed out Highway 400 north of Toronto
    Metropolitan Toronto Police Museum

  • Long Branch residents, near Etobicoke Creek, were more versed in flooding because of the annual spring floods and began evacuation at 10:30 p.m. The trailer park in Long Branch began evacuations at 11:00 p.m.
  • Woodbridge was the first community on the Humber to flood. A bridge acted as a temporary dam, halting the flow of water for a brief period, but when the bridge failed, the flood would cascade down the river.
  • The first deaths were reported at 11:00 p.m. as a car was flooded in Woodbridge into the Humber River, killing the occupants. A child was torn from its father's arms on a bridge and drowned. Trees were reported toppled by the wind.
  • Between Thistletown and Scarlett Road, the Humber dropped 25 feet (7.6 m), yet Raymore Drive residents on this steep slope didn't believe that they should be worried. Many Raymore Drive residents were in bed when the flood crest arrived in their community.
  • Response from the police was complicated by the flood's effects on the landscape. It became more difficult to locate houses.

October 16, 1954

  • Police received their first call for outside assistance from Weston at 12:50 a.m. and, at this time, water levels in the Humber River were rising rapidly in Weston and communities further south.
  • Currey Bulmer, the owner of a marine store on Bathurst Street, was awakened by police at 2:00 a.m. and asked to open his store to provide boats for the rescue operations taking place around the city. Fifty boats were contributed to the search and rescue efforts, and Bulmer received a police citation for his contribution.
  • The Toronto Daily Star reported that 30 people had died in the floods following Hurricane Hazel, including between 11 and 19 in Woodbridge and five firemen from Etobicoke; plus, another 300 people were listed as missing, and damage was expected to be in the millions.
  • Final totals would include 81 dead and an early estimate of damage at $25 million. The largest death toll would be realized on Raymore Drive, where more than 30 people were killed as a result of the Humber River rising rapidly and, with immense force, ripping entire homes from their foundations, sending them plummeting downstream.
  • Forty highways and main roads were under water, passenger trains were knocked off their tracks. All traffic to and from Toronto was banned by provincial police.
  • The Metro chairman, Frederick G. Gardiner, immediately requested provincial and federal assistance.
  • Testing proved that the water was safe for consumption; however, a pumping station in Oriole had broken down and Aurora was ordered to boil water as a precaution against bacterial contamination.

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October 18, 1954
Search parties
  • Search parties were forced to cut apart piles of debris or use flamethrowers as they searched for bodies.

October 19, 1954

  • The Toronto Daily Star reported that Prime Minister St. Laurent asked that a Royal Commission be initiated to investigate Hurricane Hazel damages, which would help the federal government determine the amount of federal aid to be sent to the region.
  • The Ontario premier requested that federal assistance be calculated similarly to aid packages offered to Manitoba and Quebec, with most of the money going to rehabilitate buildings and properties, allowing money from the newly-formed relief fund to be used for people. Housing would remain the responsibility of the municipal authorities.

November 1, 1954

  • The two-person Royal Commission found that damages from Hurricane Hazel were less than $100,000,000, with $10,000,000 to $12,000,000 resulting from damage to personal belongings and household effects; whereas, the total cost included the soil erosion and other affects of a flood of Hazel's severity.
  • Colonel John Housser planned to recommend that no more militia operations be formed to assist in clean-up from the flood.

November 8, 1954

  • Hazel caused a housing crisis in Toronto, with 180 houses destroyed, 1,175 seriously damaged, 801 damaged, 16 trailers destroyed and 169 trailers damaged.
  • A central housing registry was created to help assist flood victims find accommodation.

November 22, 1954

  • Hogg's Hollow Bridge, damaged in Hurricane Hazel, collapsed.

April 15, 1955

  • Transportation snarled in the city because a bridge damaged in Hurricane Hazel had to be reduced to one lane so that it could be relocated and extended.

May 14, 1955

  • The federal government announced plans to investigate flood warning systems.
  • The creation of park land from the Hazel floodplain necessitated the appointment of a Parks Commission.

July 8, 1955

  • The bridge over the Humber River on Highway 401 reopened after damage inflicted from Hurricane Hazel was repaired.

August 11, 1955

  • The Long Branch authorities considered constructing storm sewers for every street because development was occurring rapidly north of the community, which would increase the speed that runoff reaches the river, increasing the risk of flooding.

December 6, 1958

  • Metropolitan Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (MTRCA) proposed a flood control plan combining land expropriation, and dam and reservoir construction.

June 20, 1959

  • Metro Council approved MTRCA's plan.

April 22, 1961

  • The federal government agreed to support the plan.

October 18, 1968

  • The Milne Dam on the Rouge River was completed. It was the fourth dam constructed. Others included Claireville Dam (1964) on the west branch of the Humber River, the Black Creek Dam (1973) at Jane Street and Sheppard Avenue, and the Stouffville Dam and Reservoir (1973) on the west branch of Dufferin Creek.

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