Monday October 12th is the 53rd anniversary of the 1962 Columbus Day Storm, the strongest non- tropical wind storm ever to hit the lower 48 in American history. As the granddaddy of all wind storms, all other wind storms are compared to it.
This storm was extraordinary. Wind speeds exceeded 150 mph along the Oregon and Washington coasts and topped 100 mph in the western interior valleys from Eugene to Bellingham. Since either many wind instruments lost power or were destroyed by the strong winds, the actual highest wind speeds were not measured or known.
The storm killed 46 people from northern California to Washington and injured hundreds of others. It blew down or destroyed thousands of buildings and knocked out power to millions of people from San Francisco to southern British Columbia. The wind storm blew down 15 billion board feet of timber from the coast to as far east as western Montana, enough lumber to build a million homes.
Could another storm like this one occur again? The answer is yes. And now many more people live in the region than back in 1962 along with all the accompanying infrastructure support. For instance, the 1962 population of western Washington was about 1.5 million. Today it is over 6 million. Imagine what would happen if that storm struck again today?
Wind storms occur almost every year in the Pacific NW. Some of our region’s stronger ones occur about every 10 years such as the Hanukkah Eve Wind Storm of December 2006 that knocked out power to about 1.5 million people in western Washington.
So it is prudent to prepare now for wind storms or any other hazardous weather or other events that can occur such as earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. Here are a few key resources to help you get ready at home, at work or school, or in your vehicle. When you are prepared, you are not scared.