By George P. Edmonston Jr.
It’s often said that animals have a special sense about them, instincts that let them know something bad is about to happen.
On Friday, Oct. 12, 1962, this instinct was on full display at a nearby turkey farm.
At about 4:45 p.m., an entire flock of the big birds suddenly ran to the middle of the yard and bunched together as one big mass of gobble gobble.
The turkey grower tried to move them. They wouldn’t budge.
In nearby Newberg, using slightly different instincts, folks looked forward to the weekend as they went about their usual Friday afternoon business.
At the high school, it was homecoming. Loran-Douglas Field would soon be rocking to the cheers of the Tiger faithful against the visitors from St. Helens.
At 4:55 p.m., the world suddenly changed. A wind storm slammed against Oregon so violent it left the state in shattered rubble for months.
Without the Weather Channel, modern Doppler radar, or 24-hour “smart” phone access to local climate conditions–modern conveniences still decades in the future–nearly everyone was caught by surprise. And the few who had heard something about a storm brewing were stunned by its intensity.
Popularly known as the Columbus Day Storm or the Big Blow, but officially referred to by weather historians as Typhoon Frieda (also spelled Freda), this extra-tropical cyclone traveling north from California hit the towns of western Oregon and beyond with winds that reached upwards of 140 mph.
An Air Force wind gauge atop Mt. Hebo (elev. 3,154 ft.) on the northern Oregon coast measured 160 mph before it blew apart.
Across Yamhill County, wind gusts exceeded 100 mph.
When Frieda was done, Newberg and the surrounding countryside looked like a war zone. There were downed trees and power lines, barns, buildings, homes, road and yard debris, and animals on the loose for miles on end.
Across the far west, damage was beyond comprehension. Nothing like it had been seen since the1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire.
In Oregon alone, over 64,000 homes, 5,000 businesses and 20 industrial plants experienced partial or severe damage, with combined losses totaling $170,000,000. In today’s dollars, the amount would be over $4.2 billion.
To mark the 50th anniversary of the Columbus Day Storm day after tomorrow, here are some short sketches of the aftermath, as reported in The Newberg Graphic on Thursday, Oct. 18, 1962.
-There was no loss of life in Newberg, although several injured had to be treated at Newberg Community Hospital. Across the region, from California to British Columbia, 46 people died.
-The roof of the Friendsview Manor carport collapsed, crushing Herbert Bryant’s new Cadillac to a height of three feet!
-Hardest hit were the farmers. The District 29 school board released 750 students over a week-long period to help harvest the filbert and walnut crops at 30 orchards.
-Irene Jackson and her husband Chuck lost their home to a fallen tree. They rebuilt in the same location, on Coral Creek Road, where they have now lived for almost 60 years. “We stayed in our basement for nine years while our new home was being constructed,” Irene said.
-Russell Gainer lost part of his house to a tree but a solid glass greenhouse nearby went untouched. He was hunting in Wyoming at the time.
-Ted Francis put a “Gone With The Wind” sign in front of his 99W drive-in theater on Portland Road because the storm took out his giant screen and the sheet metal fence surrounding the property.
-A gal soaking in her tub when the storm hit got up, dried off, put on her bathrobe and went outside to see about the cause of the noise and commotion. According to the Graphic, “winds blew her bathrobe off her body and across the tops of nearby trees.”
-Tom Roshak, 12 years old at the time, was at Buckley’s Locker with his grandfather when transformers starting popping in the howling wind. “When we returned home to Coral Creek Road, we had lost over 110 prune trees.”
-Friendsview residents Verne Martin and wife Ellen remember that Sherwood High was playing a “Catholic school” at home the night of the storm. The game, of course, was cancelled. When it was realized the visitors would not be able to get home, Verne remembers, “a call went out to the ladies of the community to help make tuna fish sandwiches because, as Catholics, they could not eat meat on Fridays.”
-Newberg’s homecoming game was postponed until Monday, Oct. 15. It was an afternoon contest, with few in attendance. The eastside bleachers had been torn down by the storm but the grandstand remained in good shape. The Tigers lost.
-Just before the storm, Newbergian Mrs. O.V. Hubbel and her two children, Barry and Sharon, left by train for the Seattle World’s Fair. The three sat in a passenger car with no food or water for the next 18 hours, waiting for crews to go ahead of the train and clear the tracks of fallen debris.
-The Graphic reported the local cleanup with these words: “It was a neighborly, community effort, reminiscent of pioneer days of ‘barn raisings,’ when everyone chipped in to help each other.”
-Frieda tried its best to dislodge the turkeys from their spot in the yard. The turkeys won.