Hurricane Hazel – 1954

Canada’s most notorious female visitor was a certain Hazel, but she was not human. Hurricane Hazel was the largest Atlantic hurricane in the 1954 storm season and she discharged her sound and fury all the way from Haiti, across the eastern USA and into Canada. She was one of the 20th century’s deadliest hurricanes and the fact that Hazel ranks as Canada’s worst-ever storm pays eloquent testament to her awesome power – for by the time Hazel arrived in Canada she was technically no longer a hurricane, but merely a tropical storm.

The word ‘merely’ is relative, for Hazel retained unusual ferocity in travelling 1,100 km (680 mi) across land to reach Canada, a journey that should have dissipated her energy. There she stopped, after meeting a cold front, to batter Greater Toronto with high winds and intense rainfall. The impact was increased because the arrival of such a deadly tropical storm was unheard of in Canada. By the time Hazel moved through Ontario and Quebec before finally dissipating, over 80 people had been killed, most by drowning in flash floods.

But if Hazel was disastrous in Canada, she was catastrophic during her violent journey up from the Caribbean, pursuing an erratic course that repeatedly fooled weather forecasters. Grenada, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas were battered but Haiti took Hazel’s full force, with more than 1,000 lives lost and massive property damage inflicted, along with ruination of coffee and cacao plantations. Moving on to the USA. Hazel built up steam from Category Two to Category Four and made landfall in North Carolina, causing extensive coastal chaos before rushing on through Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania,

New York State and Maryland en route to Canada. Again, property damage was extensive, there was serious flooding, power lines went down and 95 Americans perished.

When: October 5-18 1954

Where: The main impact was on Haiti, the USA and Canada

Death toll: It is estimated that around 1.200 died, the vast majority in Haiti.

You should know: Because of the terrible damage and extensive loss of life inflicted by deadly Hurricane Hazel, the name will never again be used for a hurricane that occurs in the North Atlantic.

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