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.

3 thoughts on “Hazel Remembered”

  1. Thanks, Roy for the report & for retrieving those artful images which seemed to have been varathaned after creation back in the day (?), but clearly no match for the daily elements, since 2004.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if they could be re-created & somehow better preserved (or some variation on that thoughtful theme)?

    It’s the kind of historical marker that can really draw you in to a significant event & story. And, we were lucky to have one down in Lions park for all to see on any given day.

    So, the pics are good to see, again.

  2. Thank you for your thoughtful and informative article about Hurricane Hazel.
    I have just read your discouraged post about closing down the site. I will miss the comments and I’m sorry it has been a disappointment for you. Know that one old lady will miss it very much and thanks you for your effort.

    1. Colleen, Thanks for your kind remarks. Adam is ending comments for a while as some of our readers have allowed their feelings to get in the way of civility. Unlike you, very few commenters use their actual names when giving opinions and the site isn’t always reliable when notifying us about potentially slanderous statements. I’m confident that comments will return once we can work out a protocol.

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