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

The Effects of Hazel on Toronto Area Communities

Humber River

Hazel's affects on the Humber River caused the most damage and destruction in the Toronto area. The waters rose rapidly, and with incredible force, smashed into communities that lined the river's floodplains. Houses were swept clean off their foundations and numerous lives were lost.

Today, on one of the hulking columns that supports the Bloor Street viaduct, at a height of about 25 feet, there still resides a blue horizontal line that has been painted on the concrete. The top of the line has been painted in the shape of waves, and figures resembling fish can be seen throughout the thickness of the line—it is the only adornment on the otherwise discolouring grey of the concrete. There is no plaque explaining what the line represents: the level that the waters of the Humber reached during Hazel.

Many incredible rescue efforts were made along the Humber on that fateful night in 1954, even though the current was so strong, jeopardizing most boats launched into the waters. Eventually they would need to be rescued themselves. Despite the difficulties, many lives were saved because of the quick action of police, fire personnel and citizens.

A police radio message described the futility of launching boats into the river: "Twenty-three cruiser here at the Humber. The life-saving people say not to launch a boat of any size… repeat, of any size… in this river. Nothing can make it. Anyone in it will be killed for sure." (Toronto Daily Star, October 15, 1964)

The difficulty in launching boats proved to be a source of frustration for bystanders attempting to rescue stricken people in the flood's path, as described by Det.-Sgt. Jack Gillespie, referring to officers "...within hearing distance of these awful screams from women and children leaning out windows and hanging onto rooftops, but we couldn't get close to them until we got the boats and even when they came, some of them were too small. If you didn't have a 15 horsepower-motor, it was no good." (Toronto Daily Star, October 16, 1954)

After the storm, 17 bodies remained missing in the Humber Valley. Operation 'Exercise Search' began with 800 militia troops (15 militia groups and eight army reserve units), equipped with boats, pike poles, flamethrowers, bulldozers, spades and crowbars.

Mount Dennis

Old Mill

Raymore Drive


Scarlett Road





Holland Marsh

The Holland Marsh was flooded when between four and 20 feet (1.2 - 6.1 metres) of water backed up from Lake Simcoe into the marsh. The south and west ends experienced the worst flooding when between 20 and 30 feet (6.1 - 9 metres) of water backed up from the bordering Holland River and Schomberg Creek into the marsh.

The nature of the flood in Holland Marsh differed from that in the narrower river valleys in Toronto. The Holland Marsh flood was characterized by Charlie Davis, a local resident: "It wasn't like down by the Humber, where there was a big rush of water. The water was really quiet and it was so dark outside you couldn't really see what was going on. But every time you looked out the door, the water had risen another six inches." (Toronto Star, October 14, 1984)

Long Branch

Storm Orphan
Nancy Thorpe, a four month-old baby was the only survivor of a family from Island Road in Long Branch, and has been dubbed the 'storm orphan'. The mother handed Nancy to a fire chief, who carried her across the road. When he returned to assist the rest of the family from the house, he discovered that the house had floated out to the lake. Nancy spent Christmas with her aunt and uncle after which, no more media reports regarding her whereabouts could be found.

Don River

  • One stranded motorist was rescued by an aerial ladder being swung over the river, with Captain Perry Stewart on the tip, where he threw a rope to Alex Nicholson of Pottery Road. Nicholson was able to tie the rope around his waist, but he was dragged underwater part of the way towards shore.

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