Wednesday marks the 49-year anniversary of the most devastating storm to strike the Pacific Northwest in the 20th Century.
Aptly dubbed the "Columbus Day Storm", the storm struck with great fury on Oct. 12, 1962, pummeling many areas with well over 100 mph wind gusts and causing catastrophic damage -- mainly across Oregon, but Washington wasn't necessarily left off the hook. According to state climatologist Wolf Read, the storm caused between $230-280 million in damage (in 1962 dollars) across California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, making it the worst natural disaster to strike the U.S. in that year.
The storm formed from the remnants of typhoon Freda and reenergized off the California coast into a super storm. Some of the peak wind gusts were over 145 mph at Cape Blanco, Ore., 138 at Newport, 127 at Corvallis, 116 in Portland and 96 in Astoria.
Even the Puget Sound area had some amazing gusts. Although Sea-Tac Airport had a paltry 58 mph peak gust (since topped by the 1993 Inauguration Day storm, and again by the Hanukkah Eve Storm of 2006 (I think that was 68 mph)), Renton reported a gust of 100, Bellingham had 98, Oak Harbor had 90 and Everett had 81 mph.
While other wind storms have had stronger storm centers, this one stands alone in how it formed -- something Read says it could be another 100-1,000 years before we see a storm like it in our future.
Read has done an excellent write up on the storm at climate.washington.edu. In fact, he's written up just about every wind storm to strike the Northwest. It's a great research site, and find more at climate.washington.edu/stormking
More links on the Columbus Day Storm: