||The examples and perspective in this article or section might have an extensive bias or disproportional coverage towards one or more specific regions. (May 2013)|
|Category 4 hurricane (SSHS)|
|The Weston Golf Club was left submerged after the Humber River burst its banks during Hurricane Hazel in Toronto.|
|Formed||October 5, 1954|
|Dissipated||October 18, 1954|
|Highest winds||1-minute sustained:
150 mph (240 km/h)
|Lowest pressure||≤ 937 mbar (hPa); 27.67 inHg|
|Damage||$420 million (1954 USD)|
|Areas affected||Trinidad and Tobago, Lesser Antilles, Northern South America, Puerto Rico, Leeward Antilles, Jamaica, Hispaniola, Cuba, Turks and Caicos Islands, Bahamas, Eastern United States, Eastern Canada|
|Part of the 1954 Atlantic hurricane season|
Hurricane Hazel was the deadliest and costliest hurricane of the 1954 Atlantic hurricane season. The storm killed as many as 1,000 people in Haiti before striking the United States near the border between North and South Carolina, as a Category 4 hurricane. After causing 95 fatalities in the US, Hazel struck Canada as an extratropical storm, raising the death toll by 81 people, mostly in Toronto. As a result of the high death toll and the damage Hazel caused, its name was retired from use for North Atlantic hurricanes.
In Haiti, Hazel destroyed 40% of the coffee trees and 50% of the cacao crop, affecting the economy for several years to come. The hurricane made landfall in the Carolinas, and destroyed most waterfront dwellings near its point of impact. From Carolina, it traveled north along the Atlantic coast. Hazel affected Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York; it brought gusts near 160 km/h (100 mph) and caused $308 million (1954 USD) in damage. When it was over Pennsylvannia, Hazel consolidated with a cold front, and turned northwest towards Canada. When it hit Ontario as an extratropical storm, rivers and streams in and around Toronto, Ontario overflowed their banks, which caused severe flooding. As a result, many residential areas located in the local floodplains, such as the Raymore Drive area, were subsequently converted to parkland. In Canada alone, over C$135 million (2009: $1.1 billion) of damage was incurred.
The effects of Hazel were particularly unprecedented in Toronto, as a result of a combination of a lack of experience in dealing with tropical storms and the storm's unexpected retention of power. Hazel had traveled 1,100 km (680 mi) over land, but while approaching Canada, it had merged with an existing powerful cold front. The storm stalled over the Greater Toronto Area, and although it was now extratropical, it remained as powerful as a category 1 hurricane. To help with the cleanup, 800 members of the military were summoned, and a Hurricane Relief Fund was established that distributed $5.1 million (2009: $41.7 million) in aid.
Meteorological history 
In early October 1954, a tropical wave moved off the coast of Africa and was spotted on October 5, roughly 80 km (50 mi) east of the island of Grenada. Sufficiently organized to be deemed a hurricane, the original hurricane hunter wind measurement of 110 km/h (70 mph) soon increased to 160 km/h (100 mph) at the centre, with a forward speed of 16 km/h (10 mph). Hazel moved westward and intensified from October 6 to October 9 in the Caribbean Sea without directly striking any land; at one point, it was moving "practically parallel" to the Venezuelan coast. After continuing on a westward track, it turned sharply to the north-northeast, heading for Haiti instead of Jamaica, contrary to meteorologists' predictions. On the whole, the storm proved to be very unpredictable, defying forecasts on multiple occasions.
On October 11, Hazel crossed Haiti as a Category 2 hurricane. It had lost some strength because of its passing over peaks as high as 2,400 m (8,000 ft). After passing through the Windward Passage between the islands of Cuba and Hispaniola, Hazel turned northwest toward the southeastern part of the Bahamas and East Coast of the United States, at a forward speed of about 27 km/h (17 mph). Hurricanes are generally expected to lose power after going north of Florida, since the temperature of the water is lower; however, by late October 14, just before it reached the Carolinas, hurricane hunter planes found the hurricane's winds to have accelerated to 220 km/h (140 mph), making it a Category 4 storm, and its forward speed had increased to 48 km/h (30 mph).
Hurricane Hazel made landfall near the North Carolina/South Carolina border as a Category 4 storm, on the morning of October 15. Hazel struck Myrtle Beach, South Carolina before moving north, becoming extratropical as it passed over Raleigh, North Carolina, still a strong Category 3 hurricane. Hazel accelerated to over 77 km/h (48 mph) upon landfall, and was centred over New York state and Pennsylvania by 4:30 p.m. EDT. Contrary to expectations, Hazel had not lost much intensity: winds of 160 km/h (100 mph) were measured in parts of Delaware, Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania. Before leaving the United States, the storm had claimed 95 lives, of which the majority were drowning casualties.
Moving very rapidly, Hazel consolidated with a cold front and headed toward Ontario; by midnight, it was centred over downtown Toronto. The most rain fell around Brampton, as it was where the original storm and the cold front merged. Hazel had still retained intensity equal to that of a Category 1 storm, with gusts of over 150 km/h (93 mph), sustained winds as high as 124 km/h (77 mph), and rainfall in excess of 200 mm (8 in), after moving almost 1,000 km (620 mi) over land. Leaving Toronto, the storm slowed down considerably, from a maximum forward speed of 77 km/h (48 mph) to 18 km/h (11 mph) within the span of a day. Hazel's remnants continued north through Ontario; it passed over James Bay, and reached northern Quebec. Hazel fully dissipated on October 18, having caused 81 casualties in Ontario.
On October 6, small craft warnings were issued for the Dutch islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao, despite predictions that Hazel would pass to the north. Among these early predictions was that the hurricane would strike Jamaica if it were to continue on its course, or if it turned northwestward, it could strike the Dominican Republic. These warnings were suspended a day later since it posed no threat to land, although Hazel's eventual course, toward the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico, was undetermined. On October 8, vessels were advised to take caution in the Windward Passage. Two days later, the intensifying storm was moving nearly due westward, which prompted a warning for Jamaican small craft to remain in port. Few preparations were made in Haiti, as a result of its poor communications infrastructure.
American planes observed the intensifying storm in the Atlantic Ocean since it was spotted, and warnings were issued for Florida's east coast when Hazel began to approach Jamaica. Once the hurricane had passed Haiti and was tracking north, it was expected to lose power as it passed over cooler waters north of Florida. Hazel was originally forecast to hit Savannah, Georgia. At 11 a.m. EDT on October 14, the National Weather Bureau issued a warning for the Carolinas, with the caveat that the hurricane was expected to stay offshore and largely spare any land. Instead, the storm took a northwest turn and headed toward land. By evening of the same day, the storm was forecast to make landfall near the Carolinas border, and evacuation warnings were issued along the coast. Further forecasts expected Hazel to lose its power and dissipate over the Allegheny Mountains.
In her book Hurricane Hazel, Betty Kennedy argues that in Canada, the impressions that Hazel was "the best-kept secret in town" and that it was a "fully documented meteorological event that should have taken nobody by surprise" both "paradoxically [...] contain a great deal of truth". Meteorologists predicted that if Hazel merged with the cold front, the storm would not lose intensity, but would instead potentially strengthen. Two Special Weather Bulletins were issued by the Dominion Weather Office, but since it was expected that the storm would pass east of Toronto, few other warnings were given and there were no evacuations, which increased the eventual property damage and loss of life. The forecast called for high winds between 65 km/h (40 mph) and 80 km/h (50 mph), with only occasional showers. On lakes Erie and Ontario, ships received warnings of strong winds, and the predicted wind speeds ranged from 65 km/h (40 mph) to 120 km/h (75 mph). Toronto Hydro had called in standby crews as heavy winds were forecast, although they were almost sent home at one point due to a lull in the storm.
There had been significant rainfall in the Toronto area in the two weeks prior to Hazel, so the ground was already saturated. Few people in Canada had any experience with hurricanes, since it was unheard of for them to travel as far north and inland as Toronto. Kennedy also notes that if "Toronto had been about to face a blizzard, or was threatened by a 14-inch [36-cm] snowfall, that [sic] would have been something understandable. [...] This was different. This was the unknown, the unfamiliar, the totally unexpected crisis. Hurricanes belonged in the tropics."
|United States||95||$2.5 billion (2010 USD)|
|Canada||81||$1.1 billion (2009 CAD)|
On October 8, two crew members on Reconnaissance aircraft were injured due to turbulence while observing Hazel; one was severely enough injured to require hospitalisation. The ABC Islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, located north of Venezuela, received rough winds and rains of up to 9.8 in (250 mm) when the intensifying cyclone passed to the north. Flash flooding in Aruba and Curaçao destroyed a bridge and several water dams and resulted in losses of $350,000 (1954 USD). Puerto Rico suffered its worst flooding since 1899 as a result of the hurricane. Due to timely warnings, only nine people were killed: eight by drowning and one by a landslide; however, infrastructure, buildings, and agricultural areas suffered serious damage, and over 11,000 people were evacuated from flooded areas.
Hazel struck Haiti on October 12 as a Category 2 storm. The hurricane brought flash floods which destroyed numerous villages, and high winds which caused considerable damage to major cities. The death toll was estimated to be as high as 1,000 people; most of the casualties drowned when the water flowed in a flood down the mountains, some of which were as high as 2,400 m (8,000 ft). The situation was exacerbated by deforestation, which lessened the ability of the soil to hold water. Haiti's South Peninsula took the brunt of the storm: the largest town, Aux Cayes, reported at least 200 casualties, while the second-largest town of Jérémie was reported to have been washed in the sea, with at least 200 more casualties. Damage in Aux Cayes was estimated to be $500,000 (1954 USD). Estimates of people left homeless in the wake of Hazel are as high as 100,000. Hazel destroyed about 40% of the coffee trees and 50% of the cacao crop, affecting the country's economy for several years. Objects from Haiti, such as bowls, were reported to have been transported by the hurricane to the Carolinian coast.
After leaving Haiti, Hazel went north towards the Bahamas. Since the hurricane passed largely east of the islands, only minor damage was reported. Hazel passed directly over Inagua, where it claimed six lives when a sailboat capsized while taking shelter from the storm.
United States 
Contrary to predictions, Hurricane Hazel regained strength over the Atlantic Ocean. Hazel made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane near Calabash, North Carolina, close to the North Carolina/South Carolina state border, halfway between Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and Wilmington, North Carolina. At landfall, the hurricane brought a storm surge of over 5.5 m (18 ft) to a large area of coastline, producing severe coastal damage; the damage was greater since the hurricane coincided with the highest lunar tide of the year. Brunswick County, North Carolina, suffered the heaviest damage, where most coastal dwellings were either completely destroyed or severely damaged. For example, in Long Beach, North Carolina, only five of the 357 buildings were left standing. About 80% of waterfront dwellings in Myrtle Beach were also destroyed. As a result of the high storm surge, the low-lying sandy barrier islands were completely flooded. The official report from the Weather Bureau in Raleigh, North Carolina stated that as a result of Hazel, "all traces of civilization on the immediate waterfront between the state line and Cape Fear were practically annihilated." The December 1954 NOAA report on the hurricanes of the year states that "every pier in a distance of 170 miles [270 kilometres] of coastline was demolished".
At the Raleigh-Durham Airport in North Carolina, sustained winds of 120 km/h (75 mph) with gusts of 140 km/h (90 mph) were recorded. With such high winds state-wide, heavy damage was caused to forests, and to property as a result of falling trees. However, since the Carolinas, like the rest of the Southeastern United States, were suffering from a severe drought, the heavy rainfall brought by Hazel was welcome. In North Carolina, the most rain was received in the interior of the state: Robbins received 286 mm (11.3 in) of rain, and Carthage received 247 mm (9.7 in).
Nineteen people were killed in North Carolina, with several hundred more injured; 15,000 homes were destroyed and another 39,000 were damaged. Damages in the Carolinas amounted to $163 million. Beach property incurred $61 million of damage alone, while North Carolina took the brunt of the property damage, as only $25 million in damage occurred in South Carolina. Elsewhere in the United States, damages were estimated at $145 million for a total of $308 million in losses from the hurricane.
While Hazel caused the most damage in the Carolinas, the storm did not lose all of its intensity. Going north, Hazel turned extratropical by midday when it merged with a cold front; however, it retained hurricane-strength winds and it was continuing to drop heavy rainfall. After leaving North Carolina, the storm went through Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. In general, power was knocked out and trees were downed. Wind gusts throughout the area reached 160 km/h (99 mph). Though not near the center, a gust of 182 km/h (113 mph) was recorded in Battery Park, the highest wind speed ever recorded within the municipal boundaries of New York City.
Rain amounts were heavier on the western side of the storm. In West Virginia, the average amount of rain received was 230 mm (9 in) with localized amounts of 300 mm (12 in) reported in the Appalachians. To the north in Pittsburgh, only 90 mm (3.5 in) of rain was reported.
To the east, the Washington, D.C. area was particularly affected, and considerable flooding was reported in Virginia and Maryland. New Jersey escaped major flooding as the high tide was low enough, but to the south in Chesapeake Bay, the majority of crab pots were destroyed. Hazel lost a considerable amount of moisture when crossing the Allegheny Mountains, which raised rivers and streams in the Pittsburgh area significantly above the flood mark. In Pennsylvania, the winds were still high enough to unroof several homes. In upstate New York, the storm blocked highways and railroads.
In the few weeks leading up to Hazel, the Greater Toronto Area experienced unusually high rainfall. When the storm arrived, the water table was already saturated; as a result, most of the precipitation—with estimates as high as 90%—ran off into rivers and creeks in Toronto, which raised water levels by as much as 6–8 m (20–26 ft). Areas west of Toronto received significantly more rain than to east: Snelgrove, near Brampton, received 214 mm (8.4 in), the most of any Canadian location, while both Snelgrove and Brampton reported 90 mm (3.5 in) in three hours, between 9 p.m. and midnight on October 15. Anything built in the floodplain of a major waterway was either inundated or swept away. Not built to withstand heavy flooding, Toronto's infrastructure took a heavy hit: over 50 bridges, many parts of important highways, as well as numerous roads and railways were destroyed when the high water washed them out or carried debris and smashed them.
The Holland Marsh is located in a bowl-shaped valley directly south of Lake Simcoe, near Bradford. Unlike the flash floods in rivers and creeks to the south, the flooding of Holland Marsh was slow, which allowed people to avoid drowning by escaping to Bradford, which is located on a hill. Property damage was severe: Allan Andreson, a CBC reporter, said that the "marsh was just like one vast lake. All you could see in the distance sticking out of the water was the steeple of the Springdale Christian Reformed Church". Highway 400, which passes through the marsh, was under as much as 3 m (10 ft) of water in some places when as much 6 m (20 ft) of water backed up. The economic losses were also hard. While most of the year's crop had been harvested by mid-October, it had not been brought in, so it was either submerged or swept away by the flood; in addition, any produce that came into contact with flood was deemed to be unfit for consumption and had to be destroyed. The original effort to drain the Marsh by Toronto Hydro was unsuccessful as their pumps were getting clogged by produce, and other debris. Through numerous donations, better equipment was obtained, and the Holland Marsh was drained by November 13. Fears that the marsh would become infertile after the flood were allayed with above-average harvests in the following years.
The Humber River, in the west end of the city, caused the most destruction as a result of an intense flash flood. With no flood control in place and most minor rivers and creeks draining into it, a flash flood ensued. The resulting current was so strong that the Toronto Star reported that the police were told that "nothing can make it and anyone in it will be killed for sure", when referring to launching a rescue boat. That prediction came true when a team of five volunteer firefighters were killed when their fire truck was swept away as they were responding to help a stranded motorist. Communities in the Humber floodplain were devastated. At Woodbridge, the river swelled from its usual width of 20 m (66 ft) to 107 m (351 ft) at its narrowest point, and left hundreds homeless and nine dead. The Humber swept away 366 m (1,201 ft) of Raymore Drive and 14 nearby homes, killing 35 people out of the 81 Canadian fatalities. The rise of the river was unprecedented and the residents did not evacuate, which led to the high death toll. Due to the extent of the damage, the area along Raymore Drive and the surrounding neighbourhood was converted into a park.
Further west, the Etobicoke Creek also overflowed its banks at the village of Long Branch, located near Lake Ontario, which caused heavy flooding. Seven people were killed when many dwellings were swept into the lake. That area of the village was also converted into a park. On the east side of Toronto, areas near the Don River received some flooding, but it was not as severe due to the substantially less rainfall.
The death toll of 81 people has not since been equaled by a natural disaster in Canada. In addition to the casualties, over 4,000 families were left homeless. The Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada estimates the total cost of Hurricane Hazel for Canada, taking into account long-term effects such as economic disruption, the cost of lost property, and recovery costs, to be C$137,552,400 (2009: $1,126,947,163).
In the aftermath of Hazel, a three-day period of national mourning was declared in Haiti for hurricane victims. With existing infrastructure already poor, the recovery was very slow since many of the few existing roads were blocked, and communications equipment was either out, damaged, or destroyed. The Haitian Red Cross appealed for assistance to the International Red Cross, while the American Red Cross made a donation of $25,000 (1954 USD). Pan American World Airways offered the use of its planes to assist with the delivery of aid, and the US aircraft carrier USS Saipan deployed 18 helicopters to help deliver supplies. Despite the relief effort, there was an outbreak of typhoid fever following Hazel due to a lack of clean water.
United States 
In the Carolinas, the National Guard was mobilised by the evening of October 15 to prevent looting along affected areas of the coastline. On October 17, President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared a "major disaster" in the Carolinas, and offered "immediate and unlimited federal assistance." Recovery was quick, and by October 24, all but two units were demobilised. Another concern was the rebuilding of the sand dunes along waterfronts. An artificial sand dune barrier, 39 km (24 mi) long, was completed by October 30, which in the long run led to a more rapid natural build-up of larger dunes. With Myrtle Beach a popular tourist destination, the Chamber of Commerce began an information campaign to inform the public, which might have erroneously concluded from the massive media coverage that the city had been destroyed, that the city would be ready for the coming summer. The rebuilding after the partial destruction would transform Myrtle Beach from a "quaint summer colony to a high-rise resort city".
Eight hundred soldiers—fifteen militia groups and eight army reserve units—were summoned to Toronto to assist with the cleanup. Local members of the navy assisted by providing boats and 100 men. The army donated 900 blankets, 350 mattresses, 175 double-decker beds, and 150 stretchers. Toronto residents helped out with the relief effort: the Salvation Army received so many donations of clothes, footwear, blankets, food, and money that its storage facilities were overfilled, forcing it to advise against further donations until they were needed.
The Hurricane Relief Fund was established to "receive contributions from all those citizens in this province and elsewhere who desire to assist those who have lost so much." It received donations from organisations, companies and individuals including Pope Pius XII, the Ford Motor Company, the United Church of Canada, Laura Secord Candy Shops, and the British American Oil Company. Approximately $5,100,000 (2009: $41,750,000) was distributed from a total fund of about $5,300,000 (2009: $43,000,000), with half the remainder set aside as a contingency reserve in the event of unresolved claims, and the other half going to cover administrative expenses.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Hazel, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority was created though the merger of smaller, regional conservation authorities, with the mission to manage the area's floodplains and rivers. For instance, there had been previously rejected plans to build dams along the Humber River to control flooding; after the storm, some were built, but they would not prevent flooding in another weather event comparable to Hazel's severity and under similar circumstances. After the flooding brought on by Hazel, flood control in Ontario and Canada as a whole became a more important issue.
Land in heavily flooded areas was expropriated, and policies were instituted to prevent home construction and other development projects in ravines or floodplains. Most of this expropriated land was converted into parkland. Between Dundas Street and Lake Ontario, the areas beside the Humber River are now parkland. The part of Raymore Drive that was swept away by the storm was turned into Raymore Park. A footbridge dedicated to the victims crosses the Humber river in that park.
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 hurricane. However, since it was retired before the inception of naming lists with the modern six-year cycle, it was not directly replaced with any particular name.
See also 
- Raymore Drive
- List of North Carolina hurricanes (1950–1979)
- List of Canadian hurricanes
- List of retired Atlantic hurricane names
- History of Toronto
- Geography and climate of Toronto
- Milt Sosin (1954-10-05). "Hazel Packs 100-mi Winds in the Caribbean". The Miami News. p. 1. Retrieved 2010-03-15.
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- Rotberg, Robert I. and Christopher K. Clague (1971). Haiti: the politics of squalor. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-12105-1.
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- Hairr, John (2008). The Great Hurricanes of North Carolina. Stroud, United Kingdom: The History Press. ISBN 1-59629-391-8.
- Kennedy, Betty (1979). Hurricane Hazel. Toronto: Macmillan of Canada. ISBN 0-7705-1821-4.
- Stokes, Barbara (2007). Myrtle Beach: a history, 1900–1980. Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 1-57003-697-7.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Hurricane Hazel|
- CBC Digital Archives — The Wrath of Hurricane Hazel
- Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections, York University - Archival photographs of Hurricane Hazel from the Toronto Telegram fonds.