Hurricane Hazel Personal Accounts

Lorraine Harrison

I was seven years old and living in Willowdale, the northern part of the City of Toronto, when Hazel hit. My parents had bought a new home in March of that year and as yet had not installed storm windows. I recall the rain pelting the windows and my Mom putting towels along the base of the front door. The sump pump worked constantly through the evening and we worried about my older brothers that hadn't arrived home yet. One by one (I have six brothers) the older boys came in with their pants rolled up above their knees and their shoes in hand. My Mom had insisted that she have a gas stove in her new home and the gas company brought the line in just for her, as all the other neighbours had electricity. Thank goodness for my Mom. Not only did we have heat for food and water but also a warm kitchen to fight the chills. Our neighbours were invited to come over and heat their water for tea, etc. It was a good way to get to know people.

The next morning, two of my brothers, who were reservists in the 48th Highlanders, were called out to help the police with a search of the banks of the Don and Humber rivers, looking for bodies. A gruesome but necessary task. Although Hurricane Hazel was a disaster for many people, for me it was an adventure and for the City of Toronto, a wake-up call to be better prepared the next time. As a result they developed and implemented many long-range and permanent projects to prevent the same devastation from happening again.

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