Hurricane Hazel Personal Accounts

The Doucette family's narrow escape

On October 15, and only eight years old at the time, I remember the day—lots of rain and a man walking me home under his umbrella to keep me dry. The ditches were overflowing with the amount of rain that had already come down.

Our home was right beside the Humber River—a house that my dad had built for his family. This was on Fairglen Crescent in Weston, Ontario. As a child, I loved living beside the river, as it was a real community in itself living in that area. All my fondest memories were swept away that terrifying night that Hazel came.

I remember listening that evening to my father talking to someone about how high the river was becoming. Nothing to worry about though, as it had come up this much before. I fell asleep, then to be woken up by my parents. We were unable to get out of our house; water was everywhere and now entering our house. My dad tried to reason as best he could, thinking he could maybe get to the maple tree outside, but upon attempting to do so he almost went under, as the step wasn't there or the house had lifted... who knows. That was a scary moment for me, seeing my dad in this situation and my mom trying to help get him back inside. I remember my father putting my two-year-old brother and myself on the kitchen table and telling me to pray.

We also had and elderly neighbour who was also with us at the time. She stayed with us that night because she didn't want to be alone in the storm.

To get away from the rising water, all of us moved to the stairs. The front living room window crashed in with the force of the water. We were at the top of the stairs, near the attic. My mom was screaming for help—we had nowhere else to go. Then my dad found a hatchet and started to chop a hole in the roof to get us out.

He got us unto the roof through the hole he made. I remember water all along the eaves; just a roof. My mom's screams brought a boat and us children and my mom got in. My dad resolved to stay and get our elderly neighbour through the hole in the roof. He was later to hold onto a tree, persuading our elderly neighbour to persevere and hang on, too. Our house was swept down the Humber River just after my father got into that tree.

My father was rescued by two brave men in a boat, after trying desperately to hang on to the tree.

I will never in my life forget that night. We were all lucky to survive.

Penny (Doucette) Phillips

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