‘In Ontario 81 people were killed, 35 of them on one street alone,’ says Susan Goldenberg
On October 15, 1954 Hurricane Hazel, the most famous and worst hurricane in Canadian history, roared through Toronto, leaving death and destruction in its wake.
One of the witnesses was then-North Yorker Brian Weller who shared his recollections for this article.
“As a four year old I clearly recall standing at the master bedroom of our home at 22 Bevdale Road, Willowdale, looking out to an unusually dark afternoon with heavy rain pelting the road when all of a sudden, a black police cruiser with the big red stoplight on the passenger fender stopped in front and my Dad, North Toronto Police Const. Bob Weller, ran inside.”
“Soaking wet coming through the door, he told my Mom and my older sister that he had been pulling folks to safety from the swollen Humber River in Etobicoke and needed dry clothes. He told us that homes were floating toward the lake with some residents hanging onto the roof.”
“Even though each community had its own police force in 1954, interdepartmental co-operation was a common practice prior to police amalgamation in 1957. I remember feeling a sense of pride that my Dad had such a responsible job and was meeting the challenge so willingly. Quickly changing, he ran back to the door to rejoin his workmates.”
Category 4 Hazel tore through Toronto with winds reaching 110 km/h and 285 millimetres of rain in 48 hours. Bridges and streets were washed out, homes and trailers swept into Lake Ontario. In Ontario 81 people were killed, 35 of them on one street alone — Raymore Drive in Etobicoke. The total damage was estimated at $100 million ($1 billion today).
Following ‘the storm of the century’, as it is known, dams were constructed to prevent future flooding. One, the G. Ross Lord Dam, is near North York’s Finch Avenue and Dufferin Street in the Don River watershed. It is surrounded by extensive parkland assembled in 1972 for flood control purposes.
G. Ross Lord was chairman of the Metropolitan Toronto and Region Conservation Authority from 1958 to 1972.
Written by Susan Goldenberg.
Originally published on October 22, 2018, on toronto.com.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Cutline for Weller family photo updated with correct names, Dec. 9, 2018.