Hurricane Hazel Personal Accounts

Bryan Mitchell, volunteer fireman—Raymore Drive

"I felt so helpless, but there was nothing I could do, nothing anybody could do. The water was so deep, up to our chins, and all the firemen were weighed down by clothing and boats and equipment.

"It was like something out of a Cecil B. DeMille movie. The incredible roar of the water, like the roar of Niagara Falls. It was a gigantic flood, with smashed houses and uprooted trees bobbing like corks, everything going down the river so fast. Houses crashing into the sides of other houses, people everywhere screaming. And then you couldn't even hear the screams anymore."

Toronto Star, October 14, 1984

Mitchell described the efforts of the rescuers to Betty Kennedy in her book, Hurricane Hazel:

"I think some of them realized their houses were moving, but a neighbour's house was on a solid foundation, therefore, they thought, 'Let's swim to the safety of the neighbour's.' That's what a lot of them did. Matter of fact, as the water still rose, they were right up on the rooftops of neighbours' houses, hanging onto TV aerials. Some stayed in their houses, and we could hear the screams when the houses were swept down the river with people in them."

"All hell broke loose. People were screaming, 'Save us…save us!' We could get spotlights on them. We could see them… but they were just so far out, you couldn't throw ropes. We tried floating ropes to them on logs, anything buoyant. We'd grab a piece of firewood, tie rope to it and float it upstream, hoping the current would get it over to them and they'd tie it in some way to their house. We'd hang onto the rope on shore. Sometimes the only possibility was to swim out with a rope. We saw feats of strength we've tried to reproduce since, and we can't.

"Norm Eldwin, who is now one of our district chiefs, single-handedly put up a 35-foot ladder and extended it out horizontally to span across to a house. We've tried that under ideal conditions at the back of the station and it's all we can do to lift it off the ground. It's a four- or six-man ladder. But these things happened. Everybody was working so hard. And you could hear people screaming… screaming.

"The firefighters did a good job. But for every one we got out, there was another we couldn't get out."

Hurricane Hazel, Betty Kennedy, 1979; p. 109-110)

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