Hurricane Hazel - 50 years later October 1954 Hurricane Hazel


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

Recovery

The overwhelming response and generous donations from business, government and the community would provide relief for families that were without homes and personal belongings. Here are some examples of the support that was given at an extremely difficult time for many.

Militia
The militia performed incredible relief work, with search and rescue efforts that went beyond the call of duty. Militiamen spent their weekends searching debris piles and burning them where they remained in areas of stagnant water, even after they went back to their regular jobs. Unfortunately, the militia could not afford to keep men on the search effort indefinitely, as militia men were civilians and they could not be absent from work. And, it was unreasonable to expect private companies to continue to pay their salaries while they performed relief work. Brigadier Purves made this statement: "It is a matter of regret that in pulling out of the militia we have no parallel group to hand over the job to. The civilian job of rehabilitating the Humber Valley will take from six months to a year. The flood was a major disaster in the history of Toronto."

Relief Organizations
The offices of the Salvation Army were inundated with donations of clothes, footwear, blankets, food and cash. Relief work was offered from the Kiwanis Club, Lions, Knights of Columbus and B'nai Brith. Marilyn Bell, the famed swimmer, donated personal shoes, clothes and blankets and the Springville labour camp in New York sent cooking equipment and beds. The navy sent 100 men and 12 whalers; the army, 900 blankets, 350 mattresses, 175 double-decker beds and 150 stretchers. St. John's Ambulance sent 75 men, and the Salvation Army, 100 people. Boy Scouts watched for looting in Etobicoke. The Army Signal Corps set up communications along the Humber. Toronto's streets commissioner placed bulldozers, trucks and shovel loaders at the disposal of any community that needed them. Toronto provided water for Woodbridge, and a brewery company used their own vehicles to transport water to Weston and Willowdale. The Red Cross sent rescue workers to Long Branch, shipped supplies to Bradford and provided nurses to give typhoid shots in Woodbridge. British boy scouts donated 1,000 pounds to area boy scouts who may have suffered loss. Members of the Junior Red Cross donated their pennies to help children flood victims. The Red Cross quickly assembled shelters in the effected areas of Ontario, sheltering 90 people in Port Credit, 30 in Lambton and 300 people in Bradford who fled the Holland Marsh.

Government Financial Donations
Metropolitan Toronto proposed a $100,000 donation, in addition to $50,000 donated by Toronto itself. The Etobicoke city council requested $500,000 from the province to help people find homes. The House of Commons voted to set the federal government's contribution to flood relief at $1,000,000. This was intended to match the amount the province had contributed.

Hurricane Relief Fund
The Hurricane Relief Fund (HRF) was established to receive contributions. Premier Frost and Metro Chairman Gardiner issued a national appeal for relief funds. The HRF goal was to assist the personal needs of flood victims. The monetary goal was $10,000,000.

The city of Hamilton pledged $20,000 to the HRF. As well, the Pope sent his "deepest sympathy" and $10,000.

Canadian businesses sent cash donations to the fund, including $25,000 from the Ford Motor Company, $5,000 from the United Church of Canada, $1,000 from Laura Secord Candy Shops Ltd., $250,000 from the Atkinson Charitable Foundation and $20,000 from the British American Oil Company, in addition to offers of goods, services or labour. Operation and campaign expenses were kept to a minimum because volunteers completed most of the work. Plus, Pitney Bowes donated typewriters, Bell Canada donated the telephone services and Grand and Toy donated desks. Autoworkers that were on strike, army, navy and boy scouts also rushed to assist in the recovery.

Citizens also did their part. Donations included Avro Canada's employees' pledge to donate one day's salary, which would add up to $250,000. One employee of the company and his wife were killed, and 115 others lost their homes or sustained damage. A Hamilton television station received $53,000 in pledges before Toronto television and radio stations had had the opportunity to organize events for the fund. Old age pensioners signed their checks over to the fund and some children sold toys to donate money to the fund.

A large central office, in addition to nine smaller branch offices, was created to handle relief claims from Hazel. The offices handled claims for household contents and personal belongings either lost or ruined in the flood. Dependents of victims of the Hazel flood would continue to receive compensation after the dissolution of the HRF from the Worker's Compensation Board.

The final break down of the fund was as follows:

  • total emergency aid and relief distributed was $5,132,024;
  • 250,000 donors for a total fund of $5,278,625;
  • a contingency reserve of $56,661 was set up for any future unsettled claims;
  • 3,425 persons benefited, including 1,197 children;
  • orphaned children would receive $2,500 upon turning 21, plus accrued interest;
  • 67 funerals and funds to 27 dependents amounted to $324,113;
  • $1,392,634 was used to replace household contents and clothing in 1,663 households for 5,504 people;
  • 859 farms experienced losses, 216 farms lost fences, 145 bridges and culverts. Farmers were given a total of $1,810,354 for damages.
  • 224 small businesses claimed for equipment and merchandise totalling $488,658;
  • 222 trailer owners received $320,535;
  • 19 non-profit organizations, churches, hospitals and summer camps for underprivileged children were awarded $111,271;
  • 318 claims were from damages to automobiles and trucks amounting to $59,214; and
  • total administration expenses were $59,735, 11 per cent of the total collected for the fund.

Source: Toronto Daily Star, August 18, 1955

Insurance
Insurance companies set up special disaster service offices in New Toronto, Woodbridge and Newmarket to handle the volume of claims. Information gathered by adjusters at temporary offices was passed to the more than 200 insurance companies holding policies. The procedure was that claimants notify the company of damage, begin repairs, list losses and wait for adjusters to assess their claim. Many people found that their insurance did not cover damage sustained from floodwaters. "It's been impossible to get flood insurance on homes since the big Mississippi River flood of several years ago," said Douglas MacRae the joint manager of London and Lancashire Insurance Company Ltd.

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The structural damages caused by Hazel were also severe. Many bridges needed to be repaired, watercourses had to be rerouted and preventative measures were taken in the event that another Hazel-like storm should occur. Here are some examples of the extent of the work that was done.

  • Four culverts were built under Bathurst Street (near Sheppard Avenue) to replace a bridge that had aggravated the flood situation.
  • A section of Black Creek that runs under the Lambton golf course was rerouted.
  • Three hundred and twenty-six square miles of parkland was created around Toronto area river valleys and lakes.
  • Long Branch properties were expropriated to prevent a recurrence of the flood and turned into a 35-acre park.
  • Along the Humber River, north of Bloor Street near Old Mill Road, retaining walls were repaired and rebuilt.
  • During Hazel, 43 homes were destroyed and 360 people were left homeless in Long Branch near Etobicoke Creek. Twenty acres of property was acquired to further enhance the plan for Marie Curtis Park.
  • The Eglinton Flats area was converted into a nature recreation area, with ice-skating rinks, a tobogganing hill, tennis courts and community gardens.
  • One major dam on the Humber, another on the Don River, plus two smaller dams on the Rouge River were built to manage future flooding.
  • A 50-acre lake was created behind the 65-foot dam northeast of Dufferin Street and Finch Avenue. The park was named the G. Ross Lord Park after Toronto's flood control engineer.

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