Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Fifty years ago, reading the Hood River News, you might never have known the destruction wrought throughout the state on Oct. 12. One picture of a downed tree is about all that is mentioned. The rest of the state was not so fortunate.
The Columbus Day Storm of 1962 lives in memory as a unique and destructive force the likes of which have not — yet — been repeated.
With wind gusts measured at 145 miles per hour – and peak velocity that may have reached as high as 175 mph, the storm demolished trees, homes and lives. As many as 46 deaths were attributed to the storm, and hundreds of Oregonians were injured, making it the second deadliest weather event in the state’s history, after the 1913 Heppner flood.
What made the Columbus Day storm unusual, according to Oregon State University climatologists, was that it took place in October – well before the winter storm season.
Fifty years after the Columbus Day storm, weather analysts still debate whether this is a once a century event, or something even more unusual. Kathie Dello, who is dean of OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, says she often is asked if such a storm could happen again.
“It took a combination of events to create the Columbus Day storm,” Dello said, “and the cumulative effect of those events was enormous.”
Dello adds a simple but revealing fact: Oregon’s population change, which has doubled from 2 million in 1960 to nearly 4 million today.
“But none of the individual factors was all that unusual, so yes, it could very well happen again. And if it does, the damage could be even more devastating because there are so many more people and houses than in 1962,” Dello said.
The economic impact just in Oregon was an estimated $200 million at the time, which is equal to somewhere in the vicinity of $1.4 billion in today’s dollars. Given the vastly increased density of our housing and commercial areas, the damage today would be devastating in a similar storm.
It is not likely we will see a regional weather trauma such as this, but the anniversary of a worst-case scenario such as the Columbus Day storm serves as a reminder, as fall and winter weather approach, to review your home and business emergency preparedness. It is a good time to examine such things as emergency plans and food and water stockpiles.
The American Red Cross website, oregonredcross.org, is an excellent starting point.
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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"
Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge