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Readers share memories of 1962 Columbus Day Storm

Post by John Henrikson / The News Tribune on Oct. 11, 2012 at 4:59 pm with 4 Comments »
October 11, 2012 4:59 pm

We asked News Tribune readers to share their memories of the Columbus Day Storm. Here are some; add your own on the comments of this post.

Wayne Zimmerman, Tacoma, former staff photographer for The News Tribune:

The winds were picking up as we ate dinner, and I began to scare our children with stories about a tornado I had witnessed as a child in Minnesota. Just as my wife Viola chastised me for frightening the kids, a gust hit the house and pushed over a huge Locust tree in the back yard, taking out the power and phone lines. I evacuated the family to my parents’ house at the end of our block and called the office. City Editor Paul Anderson gave me hell because he’d been trying to reach me and my phone was always busy. Duh! I picked up reporter Erna Bence at the office and we ended up working all night, getting stories and photos. At one point, as we left a scene of terrific devastation at Wright Park, I suggested we stop at nearby Tacoma General Hospital to see if anyone had been admitted with injuries. As we walked into the entrance we met a family and a young boy, his face covered with bandages, and the amazing story that he had been mauled by an escaped lion at the height of the storm. Personally, we were out of our house for seven days until the tree was removed and our phone line restored so the City Editor could reach me once more. Truly a night to remember.

Bob Marlatt, Kirkland:

I will forever remember the Columbus Day storm of 1962 as one of the most unique rounds of golf I’ve ever played. Four of us (teenagers) decided to play 9 holes at Wanita Golf Course in Kirkland (it has since been converted into a housing development–it was also the home course for LPGA star Joan Gunderson-Carner). We were the only ones on the course and we paid full price, which kind of ticked us off. The wind was so strong that many of the flags up-rooted, pulling the cups right out of the ground. It was a hoot trying to maintain our balance so we could hit the ball. As you might guess, no ball flight went straight–it was pretty much a ground game. Putting was a real challenge as the balls would roll off the greens during a big gust. We always had bets on our games and I remember we kept saying, “Fair for one, fair for all,” a lot of times, trying to reinforce our determination to keep playing. We managed to complete the full nine holes.

Rev. James S. Brewer, Parkland:

My three day old sister had come home from the hospital that afternoon, before the storm began. By early in the evening, with only a small amount of formula in the house, the power went off. Fortunately my parents had a trash burner in the kitchen that we could build a fire in and boil water and sterilize things. My uncle from Portland stayed with us because it was too dangerous for him to be on the highway, and a neighbor came over. We were never quite sure if the neighbor came because she was afraid of the storm or because we had a newborn baby in the household.

George Strampher, South Hill:

It was a blustery fall afternoon on Woodland Road, South Hill and then all hell broke loose. Right after darkness fell the power went out. As our family gathered candles and flashlights the winds began to howl like I had never heard before in all my eleven years on Earth. We had no battery powered transistor radio. So no news, we had telephone for a while. My Uncle lived with us and was a volunteer Fireman for Summit View FD, so the phone line had to stay open in case he got an emergency call. We could hear trees falling all around, hoping the big fir tree in the front yard didn’t come crashing down on us. We built a fire in our fireplace and prepared to ride it out. We had big picture windows that rattled and shook with every wind gust. My older brother was on the couch crying with fear. The next morning we went out to survey the damage. We found our carport roof that had been on the South side of the garage, laying right side up on the North side all intact. We lost track counting downed trees. Our Uncle had to go with the Fire Dept.to cut and remove trees out of the roads and peoples driveways. The Fire Dept also checked on the welfare of our community
and needs. We had no power for days, but did Ok cooking in the fireplace. I have never forgotten that storm and have experienced smaller ones since. The Columbus Day Storm was the Granddaddy of them
all.

Deborah Moran, Tacoma:

Yes I do remember the storm! I was 10, my sister was almost 13. We were home alone because our mother was working the 3:00 pm to 11:30 pm shift at Tacoma General Hospital. Our house was old and rickety, one story with a daylight basement, on south Stevens street near 6th avenue. First the wind began blowing and I went out in it to let our dog in. The wind was so strong that I had a hard time walking in it. Later, one of my cousins told me that he had gone out in the storm and opened his coat to see if he could fly. He said the wind moved him back several feet. Anyway, the house was shaking really hard when the power went out. My sister and I went down to the basement because we really thought our house would fall down on us. I know our mom was worried but she was an LPN assigned to the emergency room that night so she couldn’t leave early. Even if she had left early, it would have been dangerous for her to drive in the storm. When the winds finally died down, we were relieved but did not go to sleep until our mother arrived home. That was one scary night!

Shirley Halverson, Gig Harbor:

That’s the day my family went to the Seattle World’s Fair. It was a beautiful day, but got windy in the early evening. We were in the Space Needle when they closed it because it was swaying. We were driving a small Hillman station wagon and it was a wild ride on hwy 99 (no I-5) back to South Hill in Puyallup. We stopped at a Pancake Restaurant around the SeaTac airport for dinner and almost broke the car doors fighting the wind; the lights in the restaurant were blinking while we ate. Saw the Hyatt Hotel sign in tatters. Tree and sign debris everywhere on the road. Power out when we got home. I was 13, my brother was 4. One of the most memorable days of my life.

Dennis Laine, Vancouver:

High school football practice was cut short when the wind really started blowing. By the time I got home good sized limbs were being ripped off trees. At home my younger sister (13) was taking care of our little sister (1) while our mother was working at the cannery and our father was trying to get home from work.
The wind blew in the front door, so we placed a large overstuffed chair against the door. The wind blew in the door a second time, so I sat in the chair to hold it in place. Later the wind blew the front porch off the house.
Before he made it home, dad decided to go to the cannery and get mom, and eventually they made it home.
The next day we assessed the damage. The house lost the front porch, a lot of 3-tab shingles and was without electricity. But we were safe. We were without power for about 4 or 5 days (memory is a little fuzzy) and used our camping equipment for cooking.

Kimberlee Cusick, Bellingham:

On October 12, 1962, I was in 7th grade at Shuksan Junior High School in Bellingham.
It was a Friday night, and since my parents were hosting a bridge club at our home, I would spend the night with my girlfriend, Chris, and her family. Early in the evening, Bob Hale, a Seattle television station meterologist, interrupted regular programming to warn of an impending, very dangerous windstorm. He urged listeners to ‘batten down the hatches’ and be prepared for widespread power outages and damage. Chris and I were very glad her dad, a Bellingham police officer, was home that night.

The storm hit Bellingham around 9:00 that night and it was something I’d never seen nor heard before. Blocks away from Chris’ home, a huge electrical transmission facility blew and turned the night sky completely white. We could hear trees falling around us; miraculously, Chris’ home never lost power, but we slept in sleeping bags on the kitchen floor that night because her dad wouldn’t let us use their travel trailer in the back yard.
The following day, Chris and I rode our bikes through nearby Cornwall Park. Neither one of us had ever seen uprooted trees and it really frightened us to see what the storm had done. We were very familiar with all of the bike trails in the park and many of them were impassable because of huge fallen trees.
At my own home, we had no trees to deal with but our fence blew completely down and the power was out for a while. One of the players at mom and dad’s bridge club that night was a lineman for Puget Sound Power and Light (now Puget Sound Energy) and he got called out that evening to start line repairs. His wife didn’t see him at home for three days.

Freda Kiser, North Seattle:

I was 18 years old at the time. My fiancé and I were at Ingraham High School football stadium in North Seattle, with my sister and her date, watching a football game when the wind became so strong that the flag pole was actually bending over! I remember being amazed – I’ve never seen winds that strong from that day to this. The game was cancelled and we made our way home in 100 mph winds which were threatening to blow our car off the road. After stopping the car at home and getting out, we each had to bend over at a 45-degree angle as resistance to the hurricane-force wind, to make it from the car to the front door of our house where we all collapsed and tried to recover our composure.

Nick Nickolas, Tacoma:

My parents and my 2 older sisters where attending a movie at the Rialto Theatre in Tacoma and I believe the movie was 101 Dalmatians. Earlier that day we had bought a brand new car (Plymouth Valiant) and had drove it to the movies. During the movie we had no idea what was going on outside and when we exited the movie, it looked like a war zone and the wind was really blowing. All the way home to the north end, trees where down everywhere, lights out, wires on the ground, it was just amazing. The next day I remember going over to some friends of the family’s house who had a tree fall on their house and my father was helping them clean it up and I remember seeing power lines down all over and my father telling us to stay clear. That was quite a week for the power company and the rest of the Tacoma and surrounding areas.

John Troup, Ruston:

I certainly do remember that day. I was a first grader at Holy Cross Grade School near Ruston. My dad picked me up after school and we went to the Seattle Worlds Fair. I remember it raining when he picked me up and raining at the Fair. The wind was bending the windows in and out at what is now Key Arena. At that point the Seattle Worlds Fair closed early and we rode the Monorail back to our car. Arriving home on North 34th Street trees had blocked the driveway and my mom was probably glad to see us. She was stuck at home with two little kids and not knowing if we were OK or not.

Leave a comment Comments → 4
  1. Poppy309 says:

    I was 11 years old. My brother had traveled to Bellingham for a HS football game, so my parents and I went to the World’s Fair to kill time while waiting for him to get back. Cushman carts were being blown over, trash cans on their sides, paper flying everywhere. They closed the fair early, so we drove to the school to wait. Our old ’55 Pontiac wagon was rocking in the wind. Finally a teacher came out to the parking lot and told everyone that the kids were being held in Bellingham overnight. On our way home (north east of Lake Washington) our primary access road was blocked with fallen trees; we had to drive several miles around to get home to no power or phone. Our power was out for several days; we cracked the back of our fireplace trying to heat the house.

  2. marjim43 says:

    I was a 15 year old high school Sophomore at Wilson High in Tacoma. I was talking on the phone to my friend Mae Lynn as we had planned to go to a football game that night but our parents had said we couldn’t because of the storm that was coming. Well, that just did not set well with teenagers so we were complaining. Mae Lynn could see the Narrows Bridge from her house and they had stopped the cars, as we were talking the power went out and that ended the call. The winds were very strong and mom had all the camping gear out..Coleman Stove, lantern, etc. Dad had a fire going in the fire place and the radio was on. We watched the neighbors trees very carefully as they really were swaying. In the morning part of our roofing was across the street, the neighbor’s tree lost a few branches but we were ok. Later we drove to Wright’s Park to see all the uprooted trees. We wanted to go to Pt. Defiance but it was closed due to severe damage. What a night for sure.

  3. I was 6 years old. I remember the candles and hurricane lamps, the battery radio Mom had going, and the sound of branches falling and big crashes that sounded a little ways away. I remembe being scared because Dad wasn’t home yet. We lived out towards Gresham OR and Dad worked in downtown Portland. A big relief when he walked through the door.

    The next morning we went out to see the damage. Branches and leaves everywhere, but our little neighborhood survived little major damage. There was a new housing development a short ways away and a lot of the huge fir trees were totally uprooted. A bunch of those big firs were down in a small park next to my elementary school. We played around those root balls for years to come. The fir trees that were in areas that hadn’t been disturbed, no trees recently cut down, survived the storm.

  4. dgmoffitt says:

    Following college in Seattle, I had just moved to Newberg, Oregon. My high school aged brother was down to visit for the weekend. He was at the bowling alley while I finished up at the office. When I closed up and started down the street, my 10 minute walk to the apartment house expanded to 45 minutes due to downed wires and trees. When my brother arrived at the apartment, he informed me that he kept bowling when the doors blew off the bowling alley, but when the automatic pin setters quit, he left. :) We spent the evening watching the neighboring roofs blow off. The next morning the filbert orchards were all on the ground, roots in the air.

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