Columbus Day Storm: Six Things You Didn’t Know

Damage caused by the 1962 Columbus Day Storm in Newberg, Oregon. (National Weather Service photo via Wikimedia Commons)
Damage caused by the 1962 Columbus Day Storm in Newberg, Oregon. (National Weather Service photo via Wikimedia Commons)

On this date in 1962, the western coast of the United States and Canada was hit by what is said to be the strongest storm in the region’s recorded history.

Here are some things you may not have known about the Columbus Day Storm.

• The storm began as a tropical storm named Freda near Wake Island in the central Pacific Ocean.

• It moved east to the coast of the United States, where it dumped rain on San Francisco, which delayed Game 6 of the World Series between the Giants and Yankees by four days. Oakland received 4.52 inches of rain in one day.

• The storm moved up the coast at about 40 miles per hour, bringing winds the strength of a category 3 hurricane. At Cape Blanco on the southern Oregon coast, winds reached an estimated 180 miles per hour. Further up the coast, damage to an Air Force radar station indicated gusts of at least 170 miles per hour.

• Inland wind speeds were unprecedented as well. An anemometer at Portland’s Morrison Street Bridge recorded a gust of 116 miles per hour. A gust of 100 miles per hour was recorded at an Air Force base near Tacoma, Washington, while Bellingham, Washington, near the Canadian border, hit 98 miles per hour.

• 46 people died as a result of the storm, and hundreds were injured, making it the fourth deadliest natural disaster in the history of Oregon and Washington state.

The deadliest was a 1903 flash flood in Heppner, Oregon, which killed 247; followed by the 1910 Wellington avalanche on Washington’s Stevens Pass, which killed 96 people; and the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, which killed 57 people.

It’s estimated that 15 billion board feet of timber was blown down in California, Oregon and Washington, which was more than the annual timber harvest for Washington and Oregon at that time.

• Total damage from the Columbus Day Storm was estimated at $280 million, the equivalent of $2.2 billion today.

Our question: What’s the difference between a typhoon and a hurricane?


Today is International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction, National Police Day in Thailand, and Azerbaijani Railway Day.

It’s unofficially World Sight Day, Silly Sayings Day, and National Yorkshire Pudding Day.

It’s the birthday of comedian Lenny Bruce, who was born in 1925; former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who was also born in 1925; and musician Paul Simon, who turns 75 today.

This week in 1962, the top song in the U.S. was “Sherry” by The Four Seasons.

The No. 1 movie was “The Longest Day,” while the novel “Ship of Fools” by Katherine Anne Porter topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.

Weekly question

The 100,000 people left homeless by the 1871 Great Chicago Fire represented what portion of the city’s population at the time?



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