NOAA NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE ISSUES SAFETY REMINDER ON 40th ANNIVERSARY OF RECORD COLUMBUS DAY WINDSTORM
October 12, 2002 — People living in the Pacific Northwest 40 years ago started their Columbus Day with record sustained winds of up to 150 mph in a violent windstorm. The violent winds killed 46 people and left $235 million in property damage, millions without power and 15 billion board-feet of timber down as far inland as Western Montana. On the 40th anniversary of this strongest nontropical wind storm on record, the NOAA National Weather Service is asking people across the region to be mindful of strong winds that are typical in fall and winter. (Click NOAA image for larger view of damage in western Washington state from 1962 Pacific Northwest windstorm. Click here to view high resolution version, which is a large file. Please credit "NOAA.")
"I can’t stress enough that having a personal safety plan and understanding how to implement it is an extremely important part of saving lives during windstorms and other severe weather events,” said James Campbell, deputy director of the NOAA National Weather Service western region in Salt Lake City. “The NOAA National Weather Service, state and local emergency managers are reminded by the damaging Columbus Day Storm that severe weather can happen any time. We’re asking everyone to review their personal weather safety plans and procedures. Our new brochure is a good place to start.”
The NOAA National Weather Service created a brochure “Windstorms” that highlights the Columbus Day Storm and tells what to do before and after a windstorm. The brochure was prepared with the Washington State Military Department’s Emergency Management Division, and is available online.
The Columbus Day Storm is considered the benchmark of all windstorms. It was the strongest nontropical wind storm on record to hit the continental United States. It began in northern California on Columbus Day, the morning of Oct. 12, 1962. The storm left a path of destruction as it quickly moved north along the Oregon and Washington coasts before dissipating in British Columbia that night. The storm killed 46 people, injured hundreds and interrupted power to several million households.
Windstorms start as Pacific ocean low pressure systems. They occur in the Pacific Northwest each fall and winter season, producing strong winds to 60 mph and causing power outages and property damage. About once every decade, storms with powerful winds of 70 mph or more pound the region and cause significant damage. These storms last an average of three to six hours of prolonged winds in one area before the storm moves on.
The NOAA National Weather Service forecast offices throughout the region urge people to check forecasts on local NOAA National Weather Service office Web sites available to stay informed of severe weather phenomena.
NOAA National Weather Service forecasters also urge the public to listen to media reports and monitor NOAA Weather Radio at their home and workplace, making current weather information, direct from the National Weather Service, available around-the-clock. Weather radios are available at most radio electronic stores and Internet outlets for about the cost of a pair of shoes.
During the Columbus Day storm of 1962, the NOAA National Weather Service recorded sustained wind speeds peaking along the Oregon coast at 150 miles per hour. Gusts up to 179 mph were also reported. Federal forecasters are certain more high wind reports were not recorded because peak winds likely occurred after the power was knocked out.
The storm packed hurricane-force winds causing ($1.4 billion in 2001 dollars). In addition, it blew down more than 15 billion board-feet of timber (valued at $750 million in 1962 dollars) from the West Coast to as far inland as western Montana.
The NOAA National Weather Service is the primary source of weather data, forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories and operates the most advanced weather and flood warning and forecast system in the world, helping to protect lives and property and enhance the national economy.
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