50 years ago: 'The biggest wind storm that Oregon has seen'

CORVALLIS, Ore. - The Columbus Day Storm of Oct. 12, 1962, is considered one of the deadliest storms in Oregon's history.

Dozens of people died as the storm roared into Oregon and into the record books forever.

"Messages were coming in that this low pressure was deepening and that something could happen," said Kathie Dello, Deputy Director of the Oregon Climate Service at Oregon State University. "Weathercasters at that time were delivering the message, but we didn't have Twitter, we didn't have cell phones, so the message wasn't out there."

Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the storm, and for many it's still fresh in their minds.

"Power was going off all over, and trees were down. Everything was just falling apart in just a very short period of time," John Doyle, former KVAL News Director, said in a 2004 interview.

The storm developed out of remanents of a typhoon in the Pacific.

"It moved into this area where the warm moist air was meeting with the cool, dry air and it just blew up," said Dello.

She said it took a unique combination of events for the storm to develop the way it did.

"It really was the perfect storm," she said. "In 24 hours, the storm deepens 30 millibars and is right off the Oregon/California border."

The storm raced up the coast, packing winds so strong, homes were knocked off their foundations.

"Oregon saw the most damage, about 50,000 homes were damaged and we saw wind gusts of 127 miles per hour in Corvallis, that's equivalent to a category 3 hurricane," Dello said.

46 people were killed during the storm. In Eugene and Portland, planes were flipped over, and trees were uprooted.

Dello said in today's dollars, the damage cost about $1.4 billion.

But it wasn't the deadliest storm to ever hit the state.

"Oregon's deadliest weather event was the Heppner Flash Flood of 1903, but this was the second," said Dello. "This was the biggest wind storm that Oregon has seen."

She said even 50 years later, there's lessons that can be learned.

"Nothing is so rare that it couldn't happen again," Dello said. "Be prepared, take warnings seriously, listen to reports - they're not trying to hype it up."