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A look back at Hurricane Hazel


Andrea Stockton, staff writer
October 14, 2012 — It's been 58 years since Hurricane Hazel left a devastating and deadly impact on southern Ontario.


Photograph of the Humber River on October 16, 1954 (courtesy: Martin Taylor)
Photograph of the Humber River on October 16, 1954 (courtesy: Martin Taylor)

October 15 will be a day that most residents in southern Ontario will remember forever.

Hurricane Hazel made landfall as a Category 4 storm near the North Carolina border on the morning of October 15, 1954. The remnants from the storm swept into the Toronto area later that day, leaving a deadly and destructive impact.

Over 280 mm of rain fell within 48 hours and the city saw winds reach 110 km/h. That was enough to wash away dozens of roads and bridges and homes were left floating in Lake Ontario.

Thousands of residents were left homeless and 81 people died. The strength and speed of the rising water was so forceful that drowning victims were found in New York State, on the south side of Lake Ontario.

800 soldiers were sent in to help with the horrifying clean-up. Beds, blankets and stretchers were among some of the items donated.

Meteorologists say that the first couple of weeks October that year had been exceptionally wet. An already saturated ground, combined with the moisture from Hazel was enough to completely flood and wash out a good portion of the region.

While devastating, the presence of Hazel in southern Ontario prompted some significant changes.

“It was the beginning of the first flood warning system. It was the beginning of the flood plain management,” said Gary Wilkins with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.

The changes and restoration will help to prevent similar consequences from powerful storms in the future. It's still important though, to be prepared for when severe weather strikes.

Norm Pellier is an emergency management consultant and he says everyone should have their own personal 72 hour emergency kit. He says key things to have are battery operated flashlights and portable radios to collect news and information.

To keep track of the current storms, head to our Tropical Storm Centre.

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