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MailTribune.com
  • 'All hell broke loose'

    Columbus Day storm 50 years ago created havoc across Oregon, but also brought out the best in people
  • When the screaming wind snapped the large sugar pine like a toothpick, flinging it down the mountain side, Stan Moore and his fellow tree planters hit the road.
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    • Exhibit on storm set in Portland
      With today's 50th anniversary of the 1962 Columbus Day storm, the Oregon History Museum in Portland is opening a new exhibit, "The Mightiest Wind."
      The exhibit presented by the Oregon Historical...
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      Exhibit on storm set in Portland
      With today's 50th anniversary of the 1962 Columbus Day storm, the Oregon History Museum in Portland is opening a new exhibit, "The Mightiest Wind."

      The exhibit presented by the Oregon Historical Society and Portland General Electric will be on display through Jan. 6, 2013.

      The exhibit will feature photographs, film footage and interviews from the many Oregonians who survived the event. There also will be large-scale artifacts recreating the storm's destruction, a wind machine generating wind gusts like those from the storm and a meteorologist instructing visitors how to tell the weather with the exhibit's green screen.

      The museum is at 1200 S.W. Park Ave. in downtown Portland. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

      Visitor information and a list of exhibits can be found at WWW.OHS.ORG.
  • When the screaming wind snapped the large sugar pine like a toothpick, flinging it down the mountain side, Stan Moore and his fellow tree planters hit the road.
    "That was the deciding factor to get out of there," recalled Moore, 72, of Medford. "That big old sugar pine was standing up above us on the top edge of the unit. All of a sudden the top third of the tree broke off and blew about 60 feet out into the unit.
    "We packed up and got out of there but when we came around the first corner, there were trees all over the road," he added. "And we only had a bunch of Pulaskis. Not one chainsaw. We were all day and half the night chopping our way off that hill."
    Moore was 22 when the Columbus Day storm slammed into the Pacific Northwest 50 years ago today on Oct. 12, 1962.
    The tempest that hit that Friday killed 46 people, pulled the electrical plug throughout the region, caused $235 million in property damage and flattened 15 billion board feet of timber worth an estimated $750 million. The blow-down included an estimated 113 million board feet in the Rogue River National Forest, according to the late forest supervisor Carroll Brown in his two-volume history of the forest.
    Wind gusts whipped to more than 145 mph on the Oregon Coast, 127 mph in Corvallis and 116 mph in Portland.
    "Killer Storm Batters Oregon; Hatfield Seeks Federal Help," read a front-page headline in the Mail Tribune the next day.
    In a telegram to President John Kennedy, Oregon Gov. Mark Hatfield asked that Oregon be declared a federal disaster area.
    In addition to photographs of countless trees down in the Medford area, the paper carried one of a house trailer that had been blown across Highway 101 near Gold Beach. Another photograph showed Riley Creek Elementary School at Gold Beach, flattened by the high winds. Damage to the Gold Beach area alone was put at more than $1 million.
    In Medford, the National Weather Service recorded gusts of up to 58 mph by mid-afternoon that Columbus Day, but officials say the wind speeds were greater in the mountains ringing the valley. The barometric pressure dropped to 28.99 that day. And 6.24 inches of rain had already been recorded in Medford that month.
    Moore was on a Rogue River forest crew planting Douglas fir seedlings on the Dead Indian Plateau in what was then the Ashland Ranger District.
    "It started blowing pretty hard early that morning, and kept getting stronger," said Moore who retired from the national forest as an acting ranger in 2000. "I had worked in the (logging) woods for three years before this and knew about wind and what it could do."
    But no one was prepared for the winds that day, he said.
    "Trees were falling as we were cutting our way out," he said, noting some trees across the road were 4 to 5 feet in diameter.
    The crew improvised roads where they could to get around the downed trees, cutting through them where there was no alternative, he said.
    "That was a real chore — we got back to Ashland about 11 that night," he said. "But we were fortunate. Some people were left stranded out in the woods."
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