Oct. 12 is the anniversary of the windstorm that hit the Pacific Northwest in 1962. Similar conditions exist currently over the Pacific with Typhoon Songda, and strong storms are forecast over the next few days.
Fifty-four years ago today, a massive storm with hurricane-force winds roared across the Pacific Northwest, raging up the coast from Eureka, Calif., to Vancouver, B.C.
The Columbus Day storm was a result of the after-effects of Typhoon Freda, which released its power when it moved in cooler mid-latitudes.
Similar conditions exist currently over the Pacific with Typhoon Songda, and strong storms are forecast over the next few days.
“Coincidentally, a weakening typhoon in the western Pacific may result in another strong wind storm here late this week,” said Ted Buehner, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “This is how the Columbus Day Storm was born.”
An alert issued by the National Weather Service Wednesday said there was a one-in-three chance of a severely damaging weather system hitting Western Washington on Saturday.
“This would be a worst case scenario leading to a historical windstorm for nearly all of Western Washington that would be long remembered,” the alert stated.
It’s more likely, however, the storm will pass hundreds of miles off the coast and make landfall over Vancouver Island, according to the weather service. In that scenario, the Seattle region would experience a windstorm that would normally be expected a few times each storm season.
In 1962, wind speeds were recorded at 83 mph at West Point in Seattle and passed 150 mph along the Washington and Oregon coast. But the top gusts are not known because the measuring instruments were damaged or destroyed.
Even the World’s Fair closed due to high wind. Some people were allowed to stay at the Food Circus (now called the Armory) if they lived south of Seattle, where the damage was worse, according to HistoryLink.
Warning of the storm was little to nonexistent due to the technology of the day.
“The science of computer-generated forecast, only a dozen years old at the time, was incapable of modeling on as small a scale as this storm — even though it was large. And without today’s high-resolution satellite images and remote sensing, meteorologists lacked the data to get a computer model started,” wrote Times reporter Eric Sorensen in 2002.
The storm killed at least 46 people. The front page of The Seattle Daily Times described it as “murderous.”