Devastation on Main Street

On October 15, 1954, the most famous hurricane in Canadian history struck Southern Ontario. Hurricane Hazel was projected to dissipate, but instead re-intensified unexpectedly and rapidly, pounding the  region with winds that reached 110 kilometres per hour (68 mph) and 285 millimetres (11.23 inches) of rain in 48 hours.

Bill Foran was a 13-year-old student at Schomberg Public School at the time, and he recalled thinking they were just enduring a crummy autumn day, one of several that year. He remembered, around the time of the 50th anniversary 10 years ago, that it had rained a lot in the days leading up to the deluge. “The land was really almost at a super-saturation level,” he said.  “We really didn't realize we were at the tail end of a hurricane,” he said. “They just thought it was another dirty, rotten, rainy mid-October day.”

The Schomberg River, which normally winds its way peacefully through the heart of Main Street, burst its banks.  Damage reported included holes in sidewalks, undermined bridges, flooding along Main Street, a planning mill ripped from its foundation and washouts on a parking lot that dropped cars into a newly-formed hole.  The original barn on the fairgrounds was destroyed.

As a result of the catastrophic damage and severe death tolls in the Caribbean, United States and Canada, the name Hazel was retired, and will never again be used for an Atlantic tropical cyclone.