Talented mural artist Mario Noviello’s work can be seen in Weston by Ward’s parking lot and in Lions Park on the old bridge abutment. Weston Historical Society Treasurer Cherri Hurst tells me that they are seeking his assistance in renovating the Lions Park location which serves as a memorial to the victims of Hurricane Hazel.
Unfortunately Mr. Noviello’s contact information has been lost in the intervening years and Ms Hurst was wondering if any of our readers know where he could be located.
Please contact Adam or myself if you know his contact details and we will forward the information.
Postscript: Cherri Hurst tells me they have located Mr. Noviello. WestonWeb will keep readers posted regarding further work on the memorial.
Raymore Park normally closes its gates for the winter. This year, the park has seen truck after truck rumbling down the driveway to work on building up the east bank’s retaining wall where the Humber curves sharply southward. Studies have shown that the existing wall built in 1981 is below the necessary height and was topped by high water as recently as the flood of July 8, 2013.
Even before that, more than a decade ago, the owner of a house on Sykes Avenue in Weston suddenly lost several feet off the back end of their property. The house overlooks a sharp curve of the Humber River as it turns to the south. During April rains in 2004, the rear of the property abruptly vanished along with several mature trees and other vegetation. Luckily nobody was standing near the edge. The edge has continued to erode further downstream, endangering riverfront properties on Denison.
After extensive study, TRCA decided that in order to stabilize that stretch of the Humber, a 6.5 metre tall ‘replacement armourstone wall’ and stabilization measures need to be put in place on 170 metres of the east bank before more land disappears downstream. This is a very large project and because the winter was so mild, the ground had to be reinforced with a layer of brick and concrete fill.
Another project under way (once the retaining wall is built) will be sewer rehabilitation along the length of the Humber. This work will increase the capacity of the trunk sewer (I wonder if a certain rental building by the Weston Hub has anything to do with this).
Not only that but the cycle / pedestrian pathway needs to be upgraded as it is narrower than the current standard. A wider surface is to be installed that will have a centre line and other markings. Hopefully the spandex clad and vexatious Lance Armstrong wannabes will be a little more gracious when they have more room to manouvre.
Once that project is complete, a new leash free zone will be installed just north of the weir occupying most of the southern baseball diamond. This work is expected to be completed by Thanksgiving.
No matter what you’ve been told, strictly speaking, hurricanes don’t happen in Ontario. The fuel that keeps them going is warm ocean water and once landfall is made, they soon become extra-tropical storms and usually fizzle out with a bit of wind and rain – that is if they can actually make it all the way up here. Why then, sixty years later do we talk about Hurricane Hazel and its devastating effects on our neighbourhood?
Early in October 1954, a group of clouds that had formed off the coast of Africa began rotating and became a tropical storm. In the days before satellite monitoring of weather systems, there was a great deal less certainty about the path and nature of hurricanes during the June to November storm season. Back then, tropical storms and hurricanes were only detected once they came close to a populated area. This particular tropical storm was spotted in the Caribbean and being the eighth of that year, was by convention, given a girl’s name beginning with H; Hazel. She quickly strengthened into a powerful hurricane and sweeping through Haiti, Hazel took the lives of several hundred people. Then, dragged north-west by an upper level low pressure area sitting in the Mississippi Valley, Hazel made landfall in North Carolina on October 14th as a category 4 (out of 5) hurricane. Hazel was then expected to fizzle out and become a rain event but picked up energy from the low pressure area and set its sights on Ontario.
Again, before satellite tracking and computer projections, weather forecasting was something of an art. Although there was some warning about the approaching storm, Ontarians were unprepared for what was to come. Ominously, there had been considerable rainfall in the previous two weeks leaving the ground saturated.
On its way to Ontario, Hazel was re-classified as an extra-tropical storm. Even though its winds had weakened, it still carried a vast amount of water. Once over Brampton, Hazel combined forces with the Mississippi Valley system forming a new storm that stalled and unloaded its rain onto the already saturated ground. As night fell, the rain continued, putting pressure on the two major watersheds in the region, the Don and the Humber. It is estimated that a volume of water the size of Lake Simcoe fell on the Humber River watershed alone – and only one escape route – the Humber River valley.
As the evening progressed, flash flooding inundated low-lying homes along the Humber. Occasional ice-jams had caused flooding in the past but this was different. The water’s rise was rapid and relentless. By the time people realized that their lives were in danger, it was too late. In Weston, five people perished. On Raymore Drive, just across the river from Weston, a suspension footbridge blocked and diverted a torrent of water into the lower homes on that street and 35 people lost their lives. In one instance, in response to the rising water, a family moved possessions from one house to another only to lose their lives when both homes were inundated. A nearly complete list of fatalities is here.
In the aftermath of Hazel, the forerunner of the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority was formed and given the power to clear floodplain homes creating Toronto’s famous park and ravine system. Today, along with many Toronto communities, Weston is blessed with beautiful parkland and sports facilities along the Humber. Raymore Drive now ends at Tilden Crescent but the depressions of the former homes’ basements are still faintly visible in Raymore Park. Native trees and other rain absorbing vegetation are being planted and plans are afoot to remove concrete channels and replace them with natural riverbeds. Even though there is more paving today than in 1954, the disconnecting of downspouts from sewer systems, floodwater holding tanks and the encouragement of green roofs and driveways are techniques that will allow water to be absorbed into the ground rather than quickly drained into the river.
Most days, as in the past, the Humber flows gently through our parks and ravines. Even though 60 years have passed and measures have been taken to remove people from the path of danger, occasionally, as on July 8, 2013, we are reminded that no matter how well prepared we are, nature often has the last word.
On Saturday, May 3rd at 5:30 pm, a ‘Jane’s Walk’ will feature the Humber Trail between Lions Park and the weir in Raymore Park. To commemorate the upcoming 60th anniversary of Hurricane Hazel this year, the emphasis will be on the storm, its effects and after-effects on the environment both natural and human. There is no charge for this event.
Some of the stops along the way will be:
Stop 1: Lawrence Avenue Bridge
The effects of Hurricane Hazel and its deluge of water on the bridge and surroundings.
Stop 2: Lion’s Park / Weston Fairground
Stop 3: Raymore Foot Bridge
The history of the footbridge that once existed at this point and its current successor.
Stop 4: Raymore Drive (across bridge)
The ground where 36 people lost their lives; the role of the old bridge. View traces of the settlement that was destroyed.
Stop 5: Raymore Park
The aftermath of Hazel and the organization set up to acquire and manage flood plain land.
Stop 6: Raymore Park dam
The fish ladder and migrating trout. The future of weirs along the Humber.
Stop 7: Chapman Valley Park / Humber Creek
The flooding that occurred at the top of this creek on July 8 2013, and the impact development has had on rivers across the city
Urban river valleys, the Greenbelt, and the upcoming staff report and vote in city council to add the Humber, Don, and Etobicoke Creek to the Greenbelt.
Option 1: Retrace our steps along the Humber path,
Option 2: walk through the streets, past the wooden church at Scarlett and Kingdom, down Raymore Drive, crossing back over Raymore bridge and ending back up at Lion’s Park.
Mary Louise Ashbourne (Weston Historical Society)
Gaspar Horvath (TRCA)
Roy Murray (Humber Watershed Alliance)
Shelley Petrie (Friends of the Greenbelt)
Michael Cook (Lost Rivers)
Meeting point: Car park at Lawrence Avenue and Little Avenue (Cruickshank Park) at 5:30pm.
Let’s be honest: Sewers are not a sexy issue. But did you know that strong storms in 20 years will dump three times as much rainfall in Toronto as they did in the past? That incredible storm we had this year was a spring shower compared to what’s coming. In future, we can expect a third more rain than that diluvian drenching—166mm of rain will be the new normal. This summer we got 126 mm.
Canadian Underwritermagazine has an excellent article on the petition our MP, Mike Sullivan, presented to the House of Parliament asking for federal funding for improved sewers.
The petition, the article says, has been signed by more than 1000 people, and asks the feds to “immediately take action necessary to fund urgent municipal infrastructure projects to prevent property damage such as that suffered by the residents of the City of Toronto on July 8th 2013.”
York South-Weston MP Mike Sullivan spoke in Parliament today about the flooding in York South-Weston and revealed that despite the damage caused on July 8th, the Federal government has failed to offer any meaningful assistance.
Mr. Speaker, this past summer, the City of Toronto suffered what is described as a once-in-a-hundred-years storm. Thousands of homes were flooded, families lost cherished possessions and spent millions rebuilding. Neighbourhoods in my riding of York South—Weston were among the hardest hit.
I visited the flooded streets to offer comfort and assistance. I saw tremendous resilience from the very young to the very old. I also saw the aftermath of the current Conservative government’s neglect of our city and its critical infrastructure needs, such as improved sewer systems, some of which are over 100 years old.
With climate change, severe storms like the one that hit Toronto on July 8 will become more frequent. The Conservative government needs to get off the sidelines and start investing to prevent widespread flooding from happening with each big storm.
I have written on these matters to the Minister of the Environment and Minister of Infrastructure, Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs, but the response did not offer any assistance.
This is a prime example of the climate change adaptation the government talks about. The time to help is now. My constituents not only expect it, they demand it.
Sullivan is organizing a petition to the Federal government requesting infrastructure funding for our inadequate and outdated sewer systems. Once printed off and signed, petitions can be folded, stapled closed and mailed for free to:
Mike Sullivan MP
House of Commons
The epic storm of this past summer continues to have effects. At this week’s City Council meeting, politicians decided to ask the upper levels of government for money and help. They also asked Toronto Water to come up with a plan for all of Toronto to deal with floods like we experienced.
The city is asking the province and country for financial assistance and help with programs for future disaster mitigation that “reflect the reality of climate change” (is that pointed?). Council is also asking for the province to again go Dutch on the Conservation Authority programs for flooding.
They also asked city staff to consider expanding the basement flooding protection efforts across the whole city and to figure out how to enforce the downspout disconnection plan. Finally, they would like a tally of the vulnerable houses around Black Creek.