FEATURED IMAGE DESCRIPTION: A black and white photograph of a piece of Hurricane Hazel’s damage. A dog watches intensely as a woman offers her hand to a man leaving his house. The house is surrounded by the flood waters of Hurricane Hazel. The woman and dog are in a row boat by the front steps of the man’s house. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 1995


I recently self-published a book, ‘Hurricane Hazel, One Family’s Story.’ It is historical fiction about a hurricane that hit Toronto, especially the western part, on October 15, 1954. It is a cautionary tale, highlighting the loss of 81 citizens, and countless homes, entire streets in some cases, through the story of one fictional family. I hope this book will cause people to be aware that we must not develop housing on floodplain, and that climate change could make these storms occur here more frequently.

Some of our beautiful parks and ravines were developed as a response to this storm. It was decided in 1955 that storms like this may come our way again and the city and province would not stand by and allow this to repeat, so they removed all houses that remained on floodplain and turned those areas into parks for all to enjoy.

However, we are hearing reports that our provincial government is considering allowing developers to build on floodplain land that could very well wash away again. 

Many people are not aware of this story.  Walking up the Humber River you can see where bridges broke that night, and the memorial to five firefighters who lost their lives trying to save people. Raymore Park, in Etobicoke, contains paths that used to hold houses. People and their homes were washed down the river. In Mimico, two streets had houses torn from the ground they stood on, ending up in Lake Ontario, with residents inside them. Most people would not even notice these landmarks or if they did, understand their significance.

I wrote this story to bring it to people’s attention, but also as a tool for recovery for myself. My fifth concussion was the one that took away my reading and writing fluency and prevented me from working. I could barely use a computer, and after five minutes my vision would blur and my eyes would hurt.

I decided to try to write fifteen minutes a day and do this every day. At first, I would stare at the clock on my computer, hoping the fifteen minutes were over. Then, as the story emerged, I fell in love with my characters and wanted to continue creating their story, and this kept me going. By the time the book was completed I could be on a computer for over an hour. This was huge progress for me. Editing was tough, but I learned how to stick with it, noting a new tendency to use the same word in multiple sentences. Concussions can affect so many areas of the brain. I taught myself to slow down, which helped my self-regulation, another area damaged.

This book is about one family’s journey and mine as well.

Concussions are miserable things and trying hard to overcome them has been my goal since 2016. The self publishing of this book feels like success.

If you would like a copy, please email me at hurricanehazel@bell.net

Elizabeth MacGregor is a retired teacher/guidance counsellor who enjoys being on a lifelong learning journey.