I recall no warning. In those days, we were not glued to techno notifications. My Mom was making dinner, my Dad was at work. The boys in the neighborhood were outside playing football after school. I remember where I was in the back yard. The sky took on an odd yellow, green, purple color. The winds picked up. As we threw the football, the pressure change is etched in my mind. Almost instantly, it seemed, a powerful wind unlike any other I have experienced in life, literally seemed to suck shingles off roofs and hold them in the air. Mothers came out of back doors and yelled for their children to come indoors.
There was a sense of urgency. Perhaps something was being mentioned on radios playing in the house. I don’t know. Dads came home. Suddenly we were in the basement. To this day, I can’t imagine how my parents knew beyond their prior rural lives in Wisconsin or West Virginia. And for the next 15 hours we hunkered in the basement, beneath the stairs, in the dark as a roar went on and on. I recall my Dad venturing up the stairs, only briefly, and retreating beneath the stairs. The three of us, sat leaning back against the wall and listened to what had to be the world ending. I was 14 (yes I am that old!) and I still remember wondering what the neighborhood would look like when the dark went away.
I know tornadoes and hurricanes and typhoons ravage regions often. But, in the Pacific NW, this is still the storm all other storms are measured by in this region and it still reigns supreme 52 years later! The winds gusts, sustained winds at times, hit 117 mph that night in Portland, as much as 179 mph on the Oregon Coast (Cape Blanco). Every tree along our street was laying this way and that in the morning. Dozens of Birch and Maple trees crisscrossed the street, wires down, and most amazing to me then, the sun shined bright. Men took saws and axes to try and clear the street. No one had a chain saw. None of those trees were ever replaced to this day.
In the end, 46 people died. By today’s monetary standards, the storm damage runs to $3-4 billion dollars in damage. Enough trees to build 1,ooo,ooo million homes were destroyed from the Pacific ocean shore as far as Montana…15 billion board feet of timber. Nothing has since equaled it in this region, let alone much of the country.