MONDAY, OCTOBER 12TH, 2020.-
🖊 WEATHER HISTORY 📸 PORTLAND ARCHIVES
COLUMBUS DAY STORM OF 1962
The Columbus Day Storm of 1962 (also known as the Big Blow, and originally as Typhoon Freda) was a Pacific Northwest windstorm that struck the West Coast of Canada and the Pacific Northwest coast of the United States on October 12, 1962. It is considered the benchmark of extratropical windstorms.
The system brought strong winds to the Pacific Northwest and southwest Canada, and was linked to 46 fatalities in the northwest and Northern California resulting from heavy rains and mudslides.
Typhoon Freda formed 500 miles (800 km) from Wake Island in the central Pacific Ocean. The system became an extratropical cyclone as it moved into colder waters and interacted with the jet stream. The low redeveloped intensely off Northern California due to favorable upper level conditions, producing record rainfalls in the San Francisco Bay Area that delayed some games in the 1962 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the New York Yankees. The low moved northeastward, and then hooked straight north as it neared southwest Oregon. The storm then raced nearly northward at an average speed of 40 miles per hour (64 km/h), with the center just 50 miles (80 km) off the Pacific Coast. There was little central pressure change until the cyclone passed the latitude of Astoria, Oregon, at which time the low began to degrade. The center passed over Tatoosh Island, Washington, before landing on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, where it weakened rapidly. As the cyclone moved through Canada, another cyclone formed on its southern periphery, which merged with this cyclone by October 17.
The peak winds were felt as the storm passed close by on October 12. At Oregon's Cape Blanco, an anemometer that lost one of its cups registered wind gusts in excess of 145 miles per hour (233 kilometers per hour); some reports put the peak velocity at 179 mph (288 km/h). The north Oregon coast Mt. Hebo radar station reported winds of 170 mph (270 km/h).
At the Naselle Radar Station in the Willapa Hills of southwest Washington, a wind gust of 160 mph (260 km/h) was observed.
In Salem, Oregon, a wind gust of 90 mph (140 km/h) was observed.
At Corvallis, Oregon, an inland location in the Willamette Valley, one-minute average winds reached 69 miles per hour (111 km/h), with a gust to 127 mph (204 km/h), before the station was abandoned due to "power failure and instruments demolished". Observations at the weather station resumed the next day.
About 80 miles (130 km) to the north, at Portland, Oregon's major metropolitan area, measured wind gusts reached 116 mph (187 km/h) at the Morrison Street Bridge in downtown Portland.
A peak gust of 92 mph (148 km/h) was observed in Vancouver, Washington at Pearson Field, around 9 miles (14 km) to the north of downtown Portland.
Many anemometers, official and unofficial, within the heavily stricken area of northwestern Oregon and southwest Washington were damaged or destroyed before winds attained maximum velocity. For example, the wind gauge atop the downtown Portland studios of KGW radio and TV recorded two gusts of 93 mph (150 km/h), just before flying debris knocked the gauge off-line shortly after 5 p.m.
For the Willamette Valley, the lowest peak gust officially measured was 86 mph (138 km/h) at Eugene. This value, however, is higher than the maximum peak gust generated by any other Willamette Valley windstorm in the 1948–2010 period.
In the interior of western Washington, officially measured wind gusts included 78 miles per hour (126 km/h) at Olympia, 88 mph (142 km/h) at McChord Air Force Base, 100 mph (160 km/h) at Renton at 64 feet (20 m) and 98 mph (158 km/h) at Bellingham. In the city of Seattle, a peak wind speed of 65 mph (105 km/h) was recorded; this suggests gusts of at least 80 mph (130 km/h). Damaging winds reached as far inland as Spokane.
Wind gusts of 58 mph (93 km/h), the National Weather Service minimum for "High Wind Criteria," or higher were reported from San Francisco, to Vancouver, British Columbia.
At least 46 fatalities were attributed to this storm, more than for any other Pacific Northwest weather event. Injuries went into the hundreds. In terms of natural disaster-related fatalities for the 20th century, only Oregon's Heppner Flood of 1903 (247 deaths), Washington's Wellington avalanche of 1910 (96 deaths), the Great Fire of 1910 (87 deaths), and Eruption of Mount St. Helens of 1980 (57 deaths) caused more. For Pacific Northwest windstorms in the 20th century, the runner up was the infamous October 21, 1934, gale, which caused 22 fatalities, mostly in Washington.
In less than 12 hours, more than 11 billion board feet (26,000,000 m3) of timber was blown down in northern California, Oregon and Washington combined; some estimates put it at 15 billion board feet (35,000,000 m3). This exceeded the annual timber harvest for Oregon and Washington at the time. This value is above any blowdown measured for East Coast storms, including hurricanes; even the often-cited 1938 New England hurricane, which toppled 2.65 billion board feet (6,300,000 m3), falls short by nearly an order of magnitude.
Estimates put the dollar damage at approximately $230 million to $280 million for California, Oregon and Washington combined. Those figures in 1962 dollars translate to $1.8 Billion to $2.2 Billion in 2014 Dollars. Oregon's share exceeded $200 million in 1962 dollars. This is comparable to land-falling hurricanes that occurred within the same time frame (for example, Audrey, Donna, and Carla from 1957 to 1961).
The Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. (now MetLife) named the Columbus Day Storm the nation's worst natural disaster of 1962.