Columbus Day storm was quite a blow to the economy

Each Columbus Day, I am reminded of the storm of the early 1960s — 1961 or '62. I was in Western Washington when it blew through, and saw billboards and trees being blown over. I heard there was some damage down here — roofs damaged and so on. Could you look at the reports of the time and give us an idea of the extent of the damage.

Thanks for your splendid research and wry responses.

— Don R., Ashland

We are not blowing smoke when we tell you the Columbus Day storm of Oct. 12, 1962 was quite literally the storm of the century, Don.

The tempest that hit that Friday killed 46 people, destroyed more than 50,000 homes, left another 469,000 homes without power, caused $235 million in property damage and flattened 15 billion board feet of timber worth an estimated $750 million. Nearly $200 million of the damage was in Western Oregon.

Two photographs which ran the next day in the Mail Tribune reflected the damage to southwest Oregon: One revealed a house trailer that had been blown across Highway 101 near Gold Beach; the other was the Riley Creek Elementary School at Gold Beach which had been flattened by the high winds. In fact, damage in the Gold Beach area alone was more than $1 million.

One of our staffers here at SYA headquarters was a youngster in Kerby at the time. Sadly, he's now a grizzled old geezer but he can still recall the now defunct Kerby Elementary School being let out early that day after the building's asphalt shingles began sailing off the roof. A huge oak tree was also blown down in front of the school, he said.

The storm knocked over trees, smashed homes and pulled the electrical plug throughout the region.

Higher winds were recorded in northwestern Oregon than down in our area, according to the records. In fact, Medford only had gusts of up to 58 mph, although Crescent City was blasted by gusts up to 71 mph and North Bend recorded 81 mph.

But the Portland International Airport clocked winds of up to 100 mph. The storm damaged 70 percent of the roughly 4,000 homes in Lake Oswego, an upscale Portland suburb. And the wind screamed up to 127 mph in Corvallis, causing massive damage.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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