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The Night of Hurricane Hazel
by Connie Daxon
Unless indicated, all photographs are courtesy of Weston Historical Society

The night of Hurricane Hazel, October 15, 1954, I was home alone with three small children aged four, five and ten. I also had to deal with a dog so afraid he wouldn’t get off of my knee. My husband was working nights at the time at Cooper and Beatty Typographers on Wellington Street in downtown Toronto.

The sump pump was filling with water. Electricity came and went and so the pump wasn’t coming on automatically. I had only a flashlight. I had to run downstairs and start it manually when we had hydro in order to keep water from coming in to flood our basement. My husband phoned to say he was on his way home immediately. But underpasses were flooded and so it took a long time to detour around but he made it.

We lived on Aura Lea Boulevard which was about a block east of the Humber River. All evening long, I had heard a terrible roaring sound like airplanes taking off from the airport. I had no idea it was the river making the noise. On his way home, my husband saw police and firemen working at the river and in boats clearing debris and rescuing people. We learned later that almost a foot of rain fell in twenty-four hours and that winds reached sixty-eight miles per hour.

Little remained of lower Raymore Drive, situated just south of Lawrence Avenue, in the wake of Hurricane Hazel. The few houses that survived the onrush of the rain-swollen Humber River were expropriated and demolished by the city's conservation authority. The land now forms part of present day Raymore Park.

All was well with us but on Main Street the next morning we saw that the river had come right up to Mason’s Corners (present day Flindon Road and the site of St. Timothy- by- the Humber church). Also, trucks were hauling uprooted trees down Weston Road. The news told us of the devastation and loss of life. In the city of Toronto, eighty-one people had been killed; thousands of families were left homeless. Bridges and streets had been washed out.

Onlookers marvel at the flood waters that surrounded Weston Lion's Arena in the aftermath of the hurricane - October 16, 1954

Locally, one of the most tragic stories we heard was that a grandmother had gone back to the family’s home to get shoes her granddaughter needed to wear for her wedding planned for the next day. The grandmother was swept away down river.

The night of Hurricane Hazel is firmly fixed in my memory, even now, fifty some years later.

Photograph courtesy Phil Keirstead

This memorial to the victims of Hurricane Hazel is located beside the footbridge that straddles the Humber River between Weston's Lion's Park and Etobicoke's Raymore Park. The monument was fashioned from remains of the old Lawrence Avenue Bridge, whose middle section was washed away by the Humber River on the evening of October 15, 1954. The memorial bears images of newspaper reports from that time, which recount the terrible loss of life and devastation caused by the hurricane.
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