With Hurricane Irene on her way, let’s take a look at the worst hurricane to hit Philadelphia in modern history. Hurricane Hazel ripped her way through North America in October of 1954 and this thing was a monster. It hit Haiti first, and after it made landfall at the border between the Carolinas, it lost very little intensity. The storm stayed strong over land and seared a path north all the way to Canada. While it passed through Western Pennsylvania and Western New York, it’s effects were felt in Philadelphia to the extreme.
Ninety-four mph winds were recorded at the Philadelphia Airport. Dozens of church spires were lost and haven’t been replaced to this day. Some historic theaters, notably the Maustbaum and the Standard, suffered major damage. The Delaware River overflowed and it came up through the sewers on Delaware Ave.
The biggest storm related architectural loss in Philadelphia was Horticultural Hall.
Built in Fairmount Park for the Centennial Exhibition in 1876, it was one of the only buildings from the event still standing seventy-eight years later. The winds from Hazel irrevocably damaged the enormous glass ceiling of the structure and it was sadly torn down. The Horticultural Center was built on the site for the Bicentennial, but it’s a far cry from its striking predecessor.
This damage in Philadelphia pales in comparison to what Hazel did when it reached Toronto. Up there, large areas flooded and an entire neighborhood was washed away. Once the storm was finished, it had done $420 million dollars worth of damage and claimed 1200 lives (mostly in Haiti and nearly 100 in Canada). We’re not trying to scare you or anything, but we are trying to show the potential danger of a Hurricane, even in the northeast. While John Bolaris might have it all wrong, it’s still important to take safety precautions. Stay safe this weekend, everyone.