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50th anniversary of Columbus Day storm

It was Columbus Day, Oct. 12, 1962, and a storm came ashore with winds reportedly as high as 179 mph.
Credit: KGW
A car is crushed under a tree during the Columbus Day storm of 1962.

PORTLAND It was Columbus Day, Oct. 12, 1962, and a storm came ashore with winds reportedly as high as 179 mph.

The storm swept through the Willamette Valley with such ferocity that it was rare to find a home or structure without damage.

Entire farms, livestock, and buildings were destroyed.

Entire forests were flattened.

Forty-six people died as Portland was thrown into chaos and darkness.

It is the storm by which all storms in the Northwest are measured.

It all began several days before October 12, 1962 way down in the tropical Pacific with Typhoon Freda. says Matt Zaffino, KGW NewsChannel 8 s chief meteorologist. It was Freda that moved north and later became what we know as the Columbus Day Storm.

It was probably as strong as a category-three maybe even category-four hurricane when it cruised on by, Zaffino says. The fact that it was so close and moving straight up the coast is what led to the devastating winds that basically became history as we know it.

It is unclear how fast winds got in some areas because many of the instruments used to measure the wind were damaged by the storm.

Researchers even had to abandon a weather station in Corvallis because of the high winds.

KGW s legendary meteorologist Jack Capell saw the powerful storm coming back in 1962 and rushed to send warning.

Most technology used to predict weather at the time was primitive at best. The first weather satellite launched only two years before the Columbus Day Storm.

Today, satellites see the entire globe, and powerful real-time data pours into KGW s weather center.

Just like back in 1962, it s all about the weather and bringing KGW s audience the information they need.


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