Hurricane Sandy Not the First
Hurricane Sandy was certainly a powerful storm the likes of which I can’t remember experiencing before. But, after finding some old photos in the archives I was reminded that other bad storms have hit this area in the past. The most infamous of all was Hurricane Hazel which hit Ontario on October 15th 1954.Both the Orono Weekly Times and the Bowmanville Canadian Statesman reported the damage which this area received.
In Bowmanville they said West Durham had been spared the flooding and severe damage which inflicted the Toronto area, but two cars were crushed and over 50 television aerials were crumpled. Hydro and telephone service was interrupted by broken lines caused by downed poles or falling trees and branches. The metal sheeting on Annis’ Pool Room on Temperance Street was ripped off and hanging dangerously along the front of the building and Mrs. Rose Stutt on Elgin Street had her garage roof blown off. The sidewalk was buckled in at least three places in town by roots of toppled trees.
The Purdy Family at 47 Centre Street went through a terrible ordeal. Cliff Purdy with his daughter Linda, aged 11, and son Wayne, aged 13 came home on Saturday night around 9:30pm. As they drove up the laneway Cliff noticed a small branch on the road. Linda got out of the car to move it. As she did she heard a large “crack” and jumped out of the way. I huge branch came crashing down on the car causing a deep dent in the roof just behind Cliff’s head. The branch damaged a fender and twisted a door frame. It surrounded the car and they could not open any of the doors so Cliff and Wayne were forced to crawl out a window. To top it off, the next day, while they were out a passer by noticed smoke coming out from under their front door. He ran to the fire alarm box but it didn’t work, the wires had been damaged. However, the Fire department were soon notified and on the scene. The fire was in the pipe for the kitchen stove and it was dealt with causing only smoke damage.
Similar damage was reported in Orono however their telephone system was the hardest hit. Both St. Saviour’s Anglican Church and the Orono United Church suffered roof damage. The United Church lost a 25 foot square section of slate shingles, but the Anglican Church lost the entire southeast corner of their roof! From the inside you could look up and see the sky outside. Mr. Bev Henderson lost the roof to his barn. It landed on the west side of Highway # 35/ 115 when it hit a tree. Also the late spy apple crop, which was just beginning to be harvested, was destroyed by the heavy winds.
Hurricane Hazel killed 1,000 people in Haiti, 95 people in the United States and 81 in Canada (mostly near Toronto where the storm centred). West Durham was spared any casualties but there was one later that was indirectly caused by the storm. Mason Coulter travelled across the Scugog Street CPR tracks four times a day as he travelled between his home on Temperance Street and his workplace of 31 years, the Bowmanville Foundry. The diesel CPR Dayliner commuter train had to be detoured through Bowmanville from its usual route on the Burketon rail line further north because of wash-outs damage caused by Hurricane Hazel. It unexpectedly came through Bowmanville and Mason Coulter, who was hard of hearing, failed to hear the train’s horn or the train signals. His bicycle was hit and he was instantly killed.
All over Clarington people reported damaged roofs, aerials, windows, toppled trees and poles, downed branches and some farm buildings and silos were destroyed. Despite the extensive damage both newspapers praised local telephone linemen and officials and hydro crews for their unfailing dedication to bring power and telephone service back on-line. For the most part they restored service to normal levels to most areas within two or three days.
These two pictures were taken by Ernie Rehder and used in the Canadian Statesman. Ernie’s son Tom donated his father’s negatives to the museum in 2005.