Hazel Remembered

Madeleine McDowell remembers Hurricane Hazel by the old bridge abutment in Lions Park.

A forlorn bridge abutment wrenched out of place by Hurricane Hazel on the night of October 16, 1954 is the closest thing to a memorial to the three dozen or so people who died that night as the Humber River overwhelmed the little community that lived along Raymore Drive. Local historian Madeleine McDowell, talked today about the storm which carried away the homes of many people in what is now Raymore Park. Madeleine was 14 years old at the time and had personal memories of the event which she shared today. The storm led to the creation of the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. The Humber’s longest tributary measures only 100km but the vertical drop from source to mouth is several times the height of Niagara Falls. This was one of the reasons billions of litres of water were funnelled down the river that night. It’s also the reason the watershed is prone to flooding during not so dramatic events as Hazel.

Madeleine’s talk was organized by Sharon Glaves as part of the InTO The Ravines initiative.

The abutment as it looks today in its beautiful location by the Humber. All traces of the original treatment are gone.
The abutment as it looked during the official opening in 2004. Ward 5 Councillor Frances Nunziata is standing with Former MP Alan Tonks and former Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino.(file)

The bridge abutment was once beautifully decorated by artist Mario Noviello but sadly the image faded over the years. 3 Tempests Playwright Peter Smith was in attendance and stated that the neglect of what is in effect the only memorial to the Raymore Drive victims is a disgrace. He would like to see something put in place as a permanent reminder to the people who lost their lives there. He suggested that local artists could combine their talents and design a memorial for the spectacular location. The 70th anniversary of the tragedy is coming in 2024 and now is the time to start work on the project.

The original work by Mario Noviello (file). Only the plaque remains.

Ms. McDowell wasn’t finished however. The indomitable advocate of nature had one last thing to say. She strongly opposes the proposed highway that will run across the delicate Humber watershed’s upper reaches and urged people to oppose plans for the Bradford Bypass (aka Highway 413) which will link Highways 400 and 404, slicing through the Oak Ridges Moraine and dozens of waterways.

Incidentally, Ms. McDowell is made of sterner stuff and seemed comfortable wearing sandals and no gloves. I was wrapped up with toque, winter coat and gloves and froze in the 5° temperatures.

Flooding in Weston

Large parts of Weston were flooded by a heavy summer storm today, exactly 7 years after an epic flood damaged many properties.

Many streets in Weston are under construction, they may have been the worst hit, with much flooding on Queens and John posted to the Weston Neighbours Facebook group.

The storm also flooded many other neighbourhoods in the west end of Toronto.

Judicial review to go ahead.

A piece of good news has emerged from the life that was going on before COVID 19 hit.

As a reminder, in 2018, St Helen’s Meat Packers somehow managed to buy an 8-acre parcel of contaminated flood-plain land from the city after the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, normally fiercely protective of flood plain land, gave permission for its sale and use as a meat packing plant.

TRCA says that the land doesn’t help protect adjacent locations from flooding. Community consultation meetings became raucous affairs with St Helen’s employees ‘packing’ the meeting in matching t-shirts.

The cost for 8 acres of land in our fair city? $3.19 million.

Incidentally, Robert Bielak, president of St Helens is a Ford family friend and his wife donated (legally) to Ward 5 Councillor Frances Nunziata’s 2018 election campaign.

The site borders Rockcliffe Boulevard, a street where homes are flooded in severe rain events. The last hope for residents to stop the plant’s construction is a judicial review in which a judge will check to see if all protocols have been followed. Reviews are expensive but the $25,000 cost has been raised through a combination of public fundraising and private donors. Landscape architect Devin Tepleski organized the successful fundraiser. Incidentally, and in keeping with the councillor’s style of appearing to support both sides; one of  the donors to the fundraiser was none other than Frances Nunziata.

Frances Nunziata protesting in an Acorn march in October 2018. From CTV.

Read more here, here and here.

Floodplain fundraiser almost there

Thanks to a private donor, the gofundme fundraiser to launch a judicial review of the floodplain lands purchased by St Helen’s Meatpackers and approved by the TRCA has received a boost thanks to a donation of legal services. St Helens intends to build on the land in the face of common sense and community opposition.

The floodplain land opposite Rockcliffe Court. File.

According to team fundraiser, Devin Tepleski, the fundraising target is less than $2500 and the deadline is March 23.

From the fundraiser webpage:

“Since the TRCA decision, two men nearly drowned footsteps away from the creek, and homes in the area  flooded twice in one year.  How can the TRCA  claim to have a mandate to protect communities from flooding and at the same time allow easement on to city land so it can be sold to a meat packing plant?  This is same land they TRCA recommended be used to mitigate flooding in one of their own Environmental Assessments (2014).”

To donate click here.

Guest editorial: infrastructure meeting was damp

A report from Robin Breon

Over 50 disgruntled Weston residents turned out to a meeting Tuesday, January 28th, held at the Weston Memorial Jr. Public School to voice their concerns regarding construction work being done on several streets to replace aged storm drainage pipes. The construction work currently taking place is part of the city’s Basement Flooding Protection Program.

The local city councillor’s office reported a high volume of complaints coming from residents who were either not informed of the construction project properly or misinformed by city staff or private contractors that the city had hired to do the work.

One resident reported that both his (underground) Bell cable and his Rogers cable had been severed by the all the digging around his driveway and when questioned about who was going to repair it was told by the contractor, “You have to go and ask Bell or Rogers about that.”

Other residents complained that they have yet to be told what the time-frame for completion of the project will be and when they will have access to their driveways and streets on which they live. There was a lot of head bobbing by the four city staff assembled by the councillor’s office to attend the meeting with many “we’ll have to get back to you on that one” kind of answers, but no real strategies put forward to lessen the impact of construction on the Weston streets that are affected. 

One resident asked how much of the drainage infrastructure is being replaced throughout Weston, in that there has been a marked increase in homeowners experiencing basement flooding and clogged drains. City staff indicated that “there just is not enough money in our budget to do all that needs to be done, but we are trying to designate those streets that need it the most.”

One resident suggested that if a community meeting had been called prior to the commencement of construction, people would have had a better understanding of the work that was to be done and the time-frame for completion. In response, our city councillor asked the resident: “Would you have even come to the meeting if I had called one?”

One wonders if a similar meeting in a Rosedale neighbourhood would have received such a high handed response from a city councillor.

 

Humber rises overnight

The Humber river is breaking its banks in several places this morning after a record rainfall for the 11th January. The previous highest rainfall, 22.6 mm fell in 1960. Yesterday’s rainfall for the day was 59.0 mm which for those who still think imperially is 2.3 inches. Unusually for January all the day’s precipitation was rainfall. Because the ground was frozen and unable to absorb the water, it was drained into the Humber, causing the current high levels. Incidentally, the water was still rising at 11:30 this morning. Let’s hope none of our readers were affected negatively by this rain.

Here are a few shots taken along the Humber this morning. I couldn’t venture far into Cruickshank Park as the path was completely flooded. As always, click to enlarge the images.

 

The power of the current is evident from this shot just north of the Lawrence Avenue bridge.

Looking from the Raymore Park footbridge, the old footbridge abutment (centre) is completely covered – a very rare event.

The Humber showing the old bridge abutment in September 2016.

The bike path near the York Weston Tennis Club.

 

The bike path near the York Weston Tennis Club.

Looking downriver from the tennis courts.

Alongside the tennis courts, the water has come quite close.

 

The bike path south of the Lawrence Avenue bridge.

 

North of the Lawrence Avenue Bridge, looking towards Cruickshank Park.

 

No access to Cruickshank Park from the southern end.

 

A closer view of the southern entrance to Cruickshank Park.

Update: Hans Havermann sent a link to his blog showing the high water in Raymore Park.