The Powerful Columbus Day Hurricane Of 1962 Might Occur Once More

On October 12th, 1962, the largest non-tropical wind storm in American history to impact the lower 48 states made landfall. As it swiftly moved from Northern California up the coast to Vancouver Island, this historic storm pummelling most of the west coast, including the Puget Sound region, as it hugged the coastline close offshore.

Wind gusts that were measured around the coasts of Oregon and Washington reached 150 mph and exceeded 100 mph from Eugene to Vancouver, BC. Many wind data were reported just early in the storm, and the highest winds were probably missed due to power outages and wind instrument damage.

Those wind gusts are equivalent to category 4 hurricane winds. The Pacific Northwest does not see hurricanes that are fuelled by sea surface temperatures of 80 degrees or above, but we do experience hurricane-force winds when powerful storms from the North Pacific Ocean manage to make landfall here.

On a Friday night, wind gusts in Western Washington’s interior reached from 70 to over 100 mph. Scoreboards were damaged and there were power outages during high school football games. Radio and television broadcasters were forced off the air.

The storm caused widespread damage. From the coast to Western Montana, more than 15 billion feet of timber were swept inlandβ€”enough to construct one million homes. The strong winds and falling trees caused thousands of structures to be completely destroyed or severely damaged.

Along the whole US west coast, millions of people were without electricity; some didn’t get it back until November. Numerous injuries and 46 fatalities were caused by the storm. This windstorm is regarded as the mother of all windstorms. If you have an elderly relative who experienced this storm, ask them for their stories. The Columbus Day Storm serves as a reminder that the windstorm season for the fall and winter, which lasts until March, begins in October.

Columbus Day Hurricane Of 1962
Columbus Day Hurricane Of 1962

Can a windstorm similar to this one happen again today? It can, really. Fortunately, not every windstorm is this destructive, but on average roughly every 10 years, winds of 70 mph or more are more common and result in countless downed trees and power outages. Hanukkah Eve Wind Storm in December 2006 was the most recent significant windstorm to hit our area. We are past due, as this location experiences a significant windstorm every 10 years.

Western Washington had roughly 1.25 million people living there in 1962. There are well over 6 million people living there today, supported by a far larger infrastructure. Imagine a windstorm akin to the one that hit the Puget Sound region on Columbus Day with wind gusts exceeding 100 mph. It is very likely that the harm will be severe and long-lasting.

Strong wind storms frequently prune or uproot trees, cutting off power, obstructing roads, and upsetting people’s lives. Being ready for these storms when they hit requires planning ahead for not only wind storms but also any storms that may occur in the fall and winter. To find out how to best prepare for your home, place of business, or even your pets and livestock, visit www.ready.gov.

It’s crucial to understand whether our region could have severe weather, such as a violent windstorm. Visit the National Weather Service website, MyNorthwest Weather Page, as well as other essential weather applications and websites. Being prepared for the weather means being aware of the weather

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