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Hurricane Hazel hits the Carolinas and Ontario

Hurricane Hazel, the fourth major hurricane of 1954, hammers southern Ontario, Canada, on this day in 1954. Hazel hit hard from Jamaica to Canada, killing more than 400 people and causing over $1 billion in damages.

On October 5 hurricane hunters spotted Hurricane Hazel about 50 miles east of the island of Grenada. The storm gathered strength as it moved west across the Atlantic Ocean and then began to turn north. First in its line of fire was Jamaica. Then, with winds reaching 140 miles per hour, Hazel struck Haiti on October 12. The towns of Cayes, Marfranc and Moton were demolished. Hundreds of families lost their homes and nearly half of the island’s coffee and cacao crop was destroyed. Moving northeast, the Category 4 storm rocked the edge of Puerto Rico, where eight people lost their lives.

Early on the morning of October 15, the storm made landfall at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and then moved along the U.S. coast to North Carolina and Virginia. Though coastal towns suffered the worst damage, even cities far from the ocean were affected. In Raleigh, North Carolina, winds were recorded at over 100 miles per hour. In Wilmington, Delaware, a woman was killed when winds picked her up and slammed her into a trolley car.

As Hazel slowed, even inland areas experienced excessive rain. The Ohio River flooded in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Thousands had to be evacuated from their homes and four people died in Pittsburgh. Moving north on the night of October 15, Hazel caught the Toronto area relatively unaware. When the Humber River flooded, entire neighborhoods were washed away and 81 people were killed. The storm finally dissipated the following day.

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