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50th Anniversary of Columbus Day Storm

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EUGENE, Ore. — No one would find it odd for a bank or post office to be shut down for Columbus Day, but fifty years ago, on October 12,1962, it was more than just the mailman who ended up with the day off.

One of the worst storms ever recorded in western Oregon shut down the entire city. This storm was felt by folks from San Francisco to Seattle. Its force, only matched by a category 3 hurricane. Winds as high as 127 miles per hour in the valley, and nearly 180 miles per hour near the coast left these lasting impressions. An experience that no one since or before has endured in this area.

Never again have we seen this perfect combination of a dying typhoon and a strong jet stream to move winds like that, right here through western Oregon.

According to the National Weather Service, nearly 50 people lost their lives in this storm. The wind destroyed 50,000 homes, caused $200 million in damage and left thousands of people without power for close to three weeks

For those who lived through that fateful day, it’s a storm they’ll never forget.  If you remember where you were when the storm hit, comment with your story below.

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  1. Vicki Orth says:

    I’m from Clatskanie, OR which is about 50 miles inland from the coast along the Columbia River. We got hit hard that day. Lost power for over 2 weeks. My dad & brother were in town when the storm hit and my now inlaws were coming home from Longview, WA. It took them over 8 hours to get home which was only 5 1/2 miles from town. My dad had his chain saw with him & they took turns using it to cut through all the trees that were down. They made it within a mile of home before thay ran out of gas for the saw, so they had to walk the rest of the way. The damage was terrible! The winds were so strong & then when the eye went over us it was eerily quite. By the time the back end of the storm hit, it was worse than the front end. We were only kids, 4th graders, and it scared the hell out of us. Our bus supervisor had a ham radio and found out about the storm coming, but couldn’t get the schools to let us out early. Thankfully we were on the 1st bus run & made it home ok. Don’t know if the 2nd bus run had the same luck or not. I’ll never forget that day, I remember it like it was yesterday & I’m 61 years old now.

    Vicki Orth
    Canyonville, OR

  2. Bill Inman says:

    Home for me is Medford but in 1962 I was on active duty in the Air Force stationed at Hamilton Air Force Base located just off North West corner of the San Francisco Bay. My job was to repair the Weapons Control Systems in the F-101B supersonic Fighter Interceptor. That morning we got a somewhat frantic all from the flight line for all authorized personnel to report there even though it was a weekend and we were off duty.

    We noticed the wind had picked up but thought nothing more of that. When we arrived we were told a very strong wind was expected and we were to help secure the cargo planes to the parking pad. The fighter planes would jiggle slightly from the wind as they were quite heavy, but the planes with larger wings and lighter wing loading were moving about the parking area and were at risk of causing damage. 6 of us successfully secured the right wing of a C-119 “Flying Boxcar” cargo plane and were about to secure the left wing when the wind, which had caused such damage in Oregon, hit us and the plane attempted to fly! With one wing secured the wind blew the plane around 180 degrees and the 6 of us hanging off the wing tip by the securing cable went for a short but wild ride! Almost as quickly as the wind came up it dissipated which was a real relief!

    Bill Inman

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