Hurricane Hazel Personal Accounts

Kenneth Gibbs' recollection of Hurricane Hazel

My particular recollection of Hurricane Hazel was on Friday, October 15, 1954, when I was delivering furniture for a large department store (Eaton's) in the west end of Toronto.

I knew there were reports of a hurricane because at each home where I delivered furniture, the residents were alarmed that deliveries were being made and told me so! My delivery route took me back and forth on Bloor and Dundas streets, over such rivers and creeks as the Humber, Mimico and Etobicoke. At one particular home, I carried a large mattress to be delivered and thought I would be lifted off the ground by the terrific force of the now mounting wind. The next home—it was in the Kingsway area of Toronto—the delivery could not be made because the driveway of this home at the sidewalk was completely washed away. It left the resident's car on the remaining ten-foot portion of the driveway in front of his garage. This was somewhat farther south of Raymore Drive.

It was now becoming clear that I would be stranded on the west side of not only the Mimico Creek, but the Humber River as well. At the old town of Islington, I decided to telephone home to say I would be late. As I made the call, I saw the creek at Islington Avenue and Dundas Street overflow into a used car lot, and lift the automobiles like little blocks of wood and send them crashing into each other. The bridge there was about to be closed by the police. Eventually, I crossed the old Humber Bridge by the famous Old Mill Restaurant, and the police were there ready to close this bridge, also for fear that the entrances would soon be washed out. I was to learn later that a fire truck and its crew near this point were completely washed away. The debris piling up at all of these bridges was tremendous. It included furniture, wooden boxes and even garages, and all manner of flotsam or driftwood. At the rear of Baby Point Road near Humbercrest Boulevard, dead cows and even refrigerators (ice boxes) were reportedly caught up in the trees in the lower area of the Humber River. It wasn't till later that day when I realized the seriousness of this storm and the danger involved. There was loss of life during this storm and I thank God many others were spared.

My younger brother, Glen, just in his teens, was called by his high school cadet group the following Sunday to assist in searching for bodies carried down through the Humber Valley. The search was conducted mainly at the golf course at Scarlett Road above Dundas Street. The Humber River ran through the centre of this golf course. Glen could not continue in his work that Sunday because he was so overcome with grief at the sight of loss of life. Nature is truly "red in tooth and claw."

Kenneth G. Gibbs, L.Th.
Director, Anglican Social Services/Centre 454
Diocese of Ottawa
© Environment Canada, 2004

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