Post image for The Columbus Day Storm of 1962 

The Columbus Day Storm of 1962 

by Jan on October 9, 2023

I would not have guessed that morning, walking to school, we would end the day huddled under our stairs around one gas lantern. On our trek home that particular day, the wind whipped as we tried to hold our skirts down, and we laughed at the sight of our hair standing on end. I went to play at my next-door neighbor’s house, and as we ate cheese (which she reported has 100 calories per square inch), my mother called and asked me to be sent home. She warned us a big windstorm was coming, but I got distracted, and when she stood in their kitchen doorway disheveled, she was agitated and ranting about this windstorm. I couldn’t see the big deal. Then I stepped outside.

Mother gripped my hand, and I was literally lifted off my feet. We heard a massive crack and saw the first tree tumble over only a few yards away. Safe at home, it wasn’t too long before our first giant fir tree crashed to the ground. The sound of timber cracking and the earth trembling with exploding thuds from the trees’ weight became the background symphony for the evening. We ate from a can of Chef Boyardee spaghetti heated on a camp stove. Our lantern provided enough light as we huddled in the laundry room, safely away from windows and under the well-built supporting beams of our home. I have never felt so terrified and yet so safe. My father assured us amidst the shattering of glass that we would be just fine. He had been a Boy Scout and had inside information on these things.

By the glow of the yellowing, somewhat noxious lantern, we told stories, sang, and played cards as we waited out the storm. Then around midnight, silence. Dead stillness. We stepped out into our backyard. It looked like an unexplored jungle in the Amazon and was thrilling. But that excitement only lasted until the next day when we learned of the property devastation and 50 deaths. 

That night in what has been termed, Oregon’s Columbus Day storm of 1962 has rooted deep and I embrace cherished memories that have given me the strength of deeply rooted timber, strong enough to weather any storm.

Previous post:

Next post: