As bad as Hazel? A look back at the deadly 1954 hurricane as Florence approaches

Yahoo Canada News

As Hurricane Florence looms off the eastern coast of the U.S., it is drawing comparisons to 1954’s Hurricane Hazel, one of the deadliest and costliest storms to hit the southeastern U.S. that also caused destruction in Ontario.

Evacuation orders have been issued for more than 1.5 million people in coastal areas of the Carolinas, and the U.S. National Hurricane Centre expects Florence to make landfall between South and North Carolina on late Thursday or early Friday.

“Disaster is at the doorstep and it’s coming in,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said at a Wednesday news conference in Raleigh, N.C. “If you are on the coast, there is still time to get out safely. No possessions are worth your life.”

Even U.S. President Donald Trump is warning citizens to be prepared.

“It is imperative that everyone follow local evacuation orders,” Trump tweeted Wednesday. “This storm is extremely dangerous.”

A factor that worries forecasters, such as those at weather.com, is Florence’s speed — or lack of it. Once it makes landfall, it is expected to sit and spin over the Carolinas, cut off from the jet stream flow that normally carries systems up the coast.

As it makes landfall, the U.S. National Hurricane Centre (NHC) warns Florence will usher in life-threatening storm surges.

Surges are generated when a hurricane hits shallow coastal waters, raising sea levels along the coast and driving water inland. With Florence expected to make landfall during coastal high tide (exacerbating the threat of surges), meteorologists have issued surge watches and warnings along the entire coastline of the Carolinas.

In addition to storm surges, the NHC predicts catastrophic flash flooding and river flooding (when rivers overflow their banks) across the Carolinas and other mid-Atlantic states. This is due to the storm’s slow movement up the coast and heavy rain in the Carolinas this summer having left the ground saturated with water. When the ground is saturated, additional water floods and flows over it rather than being absorbed.

What sets Hurricane Florence apart from Hurricane Hazel is what will potentially save Ontario from suffering the same damage it did during the 1954 storm. While the NHC expects Florence to wring itself out over the Carolinas, Hazel moved quickly, cutting a path of destruction from Trinidad and Tobago to Ontario where it merged with a cold front and intensified.

Over 13 days in October 1954, Hazel killed more than 400 people in Haiti and 95 across the U.S. In Ontario alone it killed 81, mostly in Toronto. It caused US$382 million in damage.

Hazel is the only Category 4 hurricane to have hit North Carolina in modern recorded history, and it was the first of two to hit South Carolina, the second being Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

While Florence might not be an exact replica of Hazel, the U.S. National Weather Service warns Florence “will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast,” a National Weather Service spokesperson said in the organization’s forecast.

Here is a look back at Hurricane Hazel, the storm so deadly and destructive, the World Meteorological Organization retired Hazel from its storm naming system.

<p>A mighty hurricane powered by winds of at least 160 kilometres per hour plowed into the U.S. mainland near Myrtle Beach, S.C., on Oct. 15, 1954, and left a trail of damage on its way north towards heavily populated cities of the Eastern seaboard. The hurricane, named Hazel, travelled in a northerly direction. (Photo from Getty Images) </p>
Hazel’s path of destruction

A mighty hurricane powered by winds of at least 160 kilometres per hour plowed into the U.S. mainland near Myrtle Beach, S.C., on Oct. 15, 1954, and left a trail of damage on its way north towards heavily populated cities of the Eastern seaboard. The hurricane, named Hazel, travelled in a northerly direction. (Photo from Getty Images)

<p>This aerial view shows destruction in Aux Cayes after Hurricane Hazel ripped into the Haiti town on Oct. 13, 1954. Death and destruction in untold amounts resulted, as the 185-kilometre-per-hour winds sped northward towards the Eastern seaboard states of the U.S. (Photo from Getty Images) </p>
Hazel in Haiti

This aerial view shows destruction in Aux Cayes after Hurricane Hazel ripped into the Haiti town on Oct. 13, 1954. Death and destruction in untold amounts resulted, as the 185-kilometre-per-hour winds sped northward towards the Eastern seaboard states of the U.S. (Photo from Getty Images)

<p>Hundreds of houses remained wrecked skeletons after the 185-kilometre-per-hour winds of Hurricane Hazel slashed across Jeremie, on the north coast of Haiti’s south peninsula on Oct. 13 1954. The death toll as of that day was in the hundreds. The hurricane threatened to strike the eastern seaboard states of the U.S. on Oct. 15. (Photo from Getty Images) </p>
Hazel in Haiti

Hundreds of houses remained wrecked skeletons after the 185-kilometre-per-hour winds of Hurricane Hazel slashed across Jeremie, on the north coast of Haiti’s south peninsula on Oct. 13 1954. The death toll as of that day was in the hundreds. The hurricane threatened to strike the eastern seaboard states of the U.S. on Oct. 15. (Photo from Getty Images)

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<p>Milton J. Fayne, meteorologist at the New York Weather Bureau, scans a large number of weather charts to get a line on the activities of Hurricane Hazel, the killer hurricane that smashed the island of Haiti. Fayne said the hurricane posed a definite threat to the mid-Atlantic and New England portions of the country but stated it was still too early to determine how great its impact would be. Along the coast of North Carolina, residents and fishermen moved boats inland, boarded up stores and some took refuge in solidly built Coast Guard stations. (Photo from Getty Images) </p>
Charting Hazel

Milton J. Fayne, meteorologist at the New York Weather Bureau, scans a large number of weather charts to get a line on the activities of Hurricane Hazel, the killer hurricane that smashed the island of Haiti. Fayne said the hurricane posed a definite threat to the mid-Atlantic and New England portions of the country but stated it was still too early to determine how great its impact would be. Along the coast of North Carolina, residents and fishermen moved boats inland, boarded up stores and some took refuge in solidly built Coast Guard stations. (Photo from Getty Images)

<p>Two people watch a house burn in aftermath of Hurricane Hazel in October, 1954. (Photo from Hank Walker/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images) </p>
Hazel hits home

Two people watch a house burn in aftermath of Hurricane Hazel in October, 1954. (Photo from Hank Walker/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

<p>The scene of damage done at Myrtle Beach by Hurricane Hazel in October, 1954. (Photo from Getty Images) </p>
Hazel in South Carolina

The scene of damage done at Myrtle Beach by Hurricane Hazel in October, 1954. (Photo from Getty Images)

<p>The scene of damage done at Myrtle Beach by Hurricane Hazel in October, 1954. (Photo from Getty Images) </p>
Hazel in South Carolina

The scene of damage done at Myrtle Beach by Hurricane Hazel in October, 1954. (Photo from Getty Images)

<p>The scene of damage done at Myrtle Beach by Hurricane Hazel in October, 1954. (Photo from Getty Images) </p>
Hazel in South Carolina

The scene of damage done at Myrtle Beach by Hurricane Hazel in October, 1954. (Photo from Getty Images)

<p>Here’s a general view of the wreckage brought by Hurricane Hazel to homes along the Atlantic Beach boardwalk in North Carolina. The pilings in the foreground supported the boardwalk. (Photo from Getty Images) </p>
Hazel in North Carolina

Here’s a general view of the wreckage brought by Hurricane Hazel to homes along the Atlantic Beach boardwalk in North Carolina. The pilings in the foreground supported the boardwalk. (Photo from Getty Images)

<p>The aftermath of Hurricane Hazel in North Carolina in October, 1954. (Photo from Getty Images) </p>
Hazel in North Carolina

The aftermath of Hurricane Hazel in North Carolina in October, 1954. (Photo from Getty Images)

<p>Former “T” hangars for private planes at Raleigh Municipal Airport after being hit by Hurricane Hazel in North Carolina in October, 1954. (Photo from Getty Images) </p>
Hazel in North Carolina

Former “T” hangars for private planes at Raleigh Municipal Airport after being hit by Hurricane Hazel in North Carolina in October, 1954. (Photo from Getty Images)

<p>Residents of Wheeling Island are shown as they were evacuated from their homes as flood waters of the Ohio River surged through Wheeling and the Upper Ohio River Valley in West Virginia in October, 1954. The river, which was fed by rain storms in the wake of Hurricane Hazel, caused thousands of people to flee their homes. Damage was estimated in the millions. (Photo from Getty Images) </p>
Hazel in West Virginia

Residents of Wheeling Island are shown as they were evacuated from their homes as flood waters of the Ohio River surged through Wheeling and the Upper Ohio River Valley in West Virginia in October, 1954. The river, which was fed by rain storms in the wake of Hurricane Hazel, caused thousands of people to flee their homes. Damage was estimated in the millions. (Photo from Getty Images)

<p>Workers clear the Capitol Plaza of debris left in the wake of Hurricane Hazel which roared through Washington, D.C. on, Oct. 15, with gusts of 157 kilometres per hour. (Photo from Getty Images) </p>
Hazel in Washington, D.C.

Workers clear the Capitol Plaza of debris left in the wake of Hurricane Hazel which roared through Washington, D.C. on, Oct. 15, with gusts of 157 kilometres per hour. (Photo from Getty Images)

<p>Government workers in Washington, D.C. hurried home after the White House ordered the employees in the Washington area released from their jobs before Hurricane Hazel’s high winds started whipping the Capital on Oct. 17, 1954. (Photo from Bettmann/CORBIS via Getty Images) </p>
Hazel in Washington, D.C.

Government workers in Washington, D.C. hurried home after the White House ordered the employees in the Washington area released from their jobs before Hurricane Hazel’s high winds started whipping the Capital on Oct. 17, 1954. (Photo from Bettmann/CORBIS via Getty Images)

<p>Two wind-harassed women detour around the Hotel Barclay’s damaged marquee on Oct. 15, 1954, as workers remove the framework after Hurricane Hazel whipped through the area. The storm hit Philadelphia after roaring through Washington, D.C., at express train speed, leaving a 80-kilometre path of destruction. (Photo from Getty Images) </p>
Hazel in Washington, D.C.

Two wind-harassed women detour around the Hotel Barclay’s damaged marquee on Oct. 15, 1954, as workers remove the framework after Hurricane Hazel whipped through the area. The storm hit Philadelphia after roaring through Washington, D.C., at express train speed, leaving a 80-kilometre path of destruction. (Photo from Getty Images)

<p>Ominous clouds tower over the Empire State Building high above the New York skyline at dusk, giving warning of the expected arrival of Hurricane Hazel. This photograph was taken from The News Building on 42nd Street. (Photo from Hal Mathewson/NY Daily News via Getty Images) </p>
Hazel in New York

Ominous clouds tower over the Empire State Building high above the New York skyline at dusk, giving warning of the expected arrival of Hurricane Hazel. This photograph was taken from The News Building on 42nd Street. (Photo from Hal Mathewson/NY Daily News via Getty Images)

<p>Raymond T. Schaeffer, director of the American National Red Cross Disaster Services, is shown as he outlines his organization’s disaster operations as the 161-kilometre-per-hour winds of Hurricane Hazel smashed into the Carolina coasts. The Red Cross said it had reports of several injured from Myrtle Beach, N.C., being taken toward hospitals at Georgetown, S.C. (Photo from Getty Images) </p>
Emergency response to Hazel

Raymond T. Schaeffer, director of the American National Red Cross Disaster Services, is shown as he outlines his organization’s disaster operations as the 161-kilometre-per-hour winds of Hurricane Hazel smashed into the Carolina coasts. The Red Cross said it had reports of several injured from Myrtle Beach, N.C., being taken toward hospitals at Georgetown, S.C. (Photo from Getty Images)

<p>The placid humber river running along the lower part of Raymore Dr. in Toronto in this aerial photo was a demon unleashed on the night of Oct. 15, 1954, when Hurricane Hazel brought death and destruction to southern Ontario. Fed by torrents of rain, the storm washed away 14 homes on this street, many with shrieking families on their rooftops, and carried 36 residents to their deaths. (Photo from Getty Images) </p>
Hazel in Ontario

The placid humber river running along the lower part of Raymore Dr. in Toronto in this aerial photo was a demon unleashed on the night of Oct. 15, 1954, when Hurricane Hazel brought death and destruction to southern Ontario. Fed by torrents of rain, the storm washed away 14 homes on this street, many with shrieking families on their rooftops, and carried 36 residents to their deaths. (Photo from Getty Images)

<p>This mural in the Islington Village neighbourhood of Toronto refers to Hurricane Hazel, which struck Toronto on Oct. 15, 1954. The place is a tourist attraction and a landmark related to the foundation of Toronto. (Photo from Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images) </p>
Hazel in Ontario

This mural in the Islington Village neighbourhood of Toronto refers to Hurricane Hazel, which struck Toronto on Oct. 15, 1954. The place is a tourist attraction and a landmark related to the foundation of Toronto. (Photo from Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images)

<p>Called upon by the Red Cross to deliver emergency supplies during Hurricane Hazel’s onslaught in Toronto, druggist William Solomon took ropes, boots and food to people in need and set up a bank of phones in his store. (Photo from Getty Images) </p>
Hazel in Ontario

Called upon by the Red Cross to deliver emergency supplies during Hurricane Hazel’s onslaught in Toronto, druggist William Solomon took ropes, boots and food to people in need and set up a bank of phones in his store. (Photo from Getty Images)

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