12
Oct
14

Columbus Day Storm, 1962…Portland, Oregon

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.

Jacobs Ladder

Unearthly rays emanating from the point opposite the setting sun half hour before storm of Oct. 12, 1962 hit. Weather Bureau explains these as “Crepuscular rays, caused by sun shining through breaks in clouds, illuminating dust particles in air.” Similar phenomenon is sometimes called “Jacob’s Ladder,” because it seems to come down from heaven. Picture was taken by Mrs. Charles W. Myers from her room on top floor of Park Plaza, 1929 S.W. Park Ave. 4:40 P.M.

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. 

chimney

This was a familiar find in the morning, in our neighborhood. Not only were all the trees blown over, almost every one lost their chimney. I recall the sound of our chimney toppling over and hitting the driveway above us.

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.

Columbus Day 1 docudharma

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. 


6 Responses to “Columbus Day Storm, 1962…Portland, Oregon”


  1. October 16, 2014 at 22:59

    Absolutely beautiful!

    Like

  2. October 13, 2014 at 00:33

    I was about 5 yrs old when this happened and have no memory of it at all! I think our lives in So Cal went on as usual as is I perceived the rest of the country does when we have a Big Earthquake in the Bay Area.

    Regions to region are so different. I’ve not lived in a home with a basement or real attic since I was an infant. In CA it’s really rare to have those.
    The 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake is the probably the event that had the most impact on my life like the 1962 storm had on yours. My world hasn’t be as secure since then.

    Like

    • October 13, 2014 at 08:11

      I recall sitting in a bar watching the world series when the quake hit. Watching the responses on TV and the group concern in the bar was memorable. Have a great Fall….Go Giants!

      Like

  3. October 12, 2014 at 21:37

    Storm of the century! Lucky you had a basement. I remember quite good weather forecasting in the early 60s but there was always the storm that surprised everyone by its intensity or last minute change of direction. We listened to the radio and watched the barometer.

    Like

  4. 5 Wisdom at Large
    October 12, 2014 at 19:12

    almost thought that squished car name was EDSELL

    Like

  5. 6 Wisdom at Large
    October 12, 2014 at 19:11

    I was in a earthquake in Yellowstone Park in the early 60’s…we had no cover…glad you had your basement

    Like


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