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Wind-blown memories of the Columbus Day Storm

Oct. 12, 1962. Friday — Nothing special about Fridays except that it meant the end of the school week. Sitting in my 7th period class at Lake Oswego High School, I was gazing out the window daydreaming about a party I was having that night for a friend’s birthday.

The sky was getting very dark and the wind was starting to blow more than usual. What in the world was happening? I wasn’t the only one witnessing this. Other students began staring out the window as they noticed the change in the sky. The class became rambunctious. It was difficult to concentrate. Soon Principal Curry’s voice came over the loud speaker announcing that a major windstorm (often referred to as The Big Blow) was heading our way; classes were over for the day and we needed to get on our buses as quickly as possible.

As I waited to board my bus, bits of wadded-up paper, leaves, gum wrappers and other stuff that kids drop started swirling around me. It was all I could do to keep my skirt from slapping me in the face, hold onto my books and purse (this was before backpacks) and get on the bus all at the same time. I could hardly wait to get home.

At about 3:45 p.m. I arrived home. Mom wasn’t there. My siblings weren’t home. Dad was at work. No one was home. It was eerie. No noise. No sounds except for the wind howling and blowing like crazy. It was only a 10-minute walk from the bus stop to my house, but it felt like an eternity as debris and leaves pelted me like a driving rain.

It seemed a bit strange that Mom and my siblings weren’t home. None of us had any after-school activities scheduled on Fridays and I was expecting Mom to help me get ready for the party. I later discovered that Mom had been called to Forest Hills Elementary and Lake Oswego Junior High School to pick up my brother and sisters because of the impending storm.

I wandered around the house munching on Mom’s homemade chocolate chip cookies, watching, listening. I could hear trees cracking as the wind ripped into them. I saw limbs come flying at our plate glass windows. The garbage cans blew over and were rolling down the street. It was 5:30 p.m. Still no sign of Mom. The electricity went out. Panic set in. Was I going to die? Alone? By myself? What about my party? Would I ever see my parents and my siblings again? Where was everyone? Why wasn’t anybody home?

Stupid as it was, I decided to venture outside to check things out. I didn’t get very far. The wind was blowing so hard I could hardly stand up. There were two large trees lying across the road on each side of the house.

“There is no way Mom is ever going to make it home with the roads blocked like this,” I remember thinking.

As I started back into the house, I heard my sister yelling at me. She, my brother, my other sister and my Mom were walking up the hill toward our driveway. Mom had gotten as far as North Shore Road and Troon Road. That was as far as she could go. She abandoned the car and walked the rest of the way with my siblings in tow. I was never so happy to see them. I wasn’t going to die alone.

No sooner had we gotten the candles and flashlights out and were contemplating a fire, when Dad walked through the door. What a relief! He, too, had abandoned his car and walked home in the dark, crawling over and around fallen trees. Thankfully we were all still alive. We were without electricity, heat and telephone for four days. Dad kept a fire going in the fireplace so we’d have heat. We slept in the family room in sleeping bags, used the Weber barbecue for cooking and boiling water. The transistor radio came in handy, too. That’s how we found that an “extra tropical cyclone” had hit the area.

It was a Friday I will never forget. Saturday dawned sunny and beautiful as if the Pacific Northwest had never seen a storm. But we knew it had. There were telltale signs of devastation all around. What do you remember about “The Big Blow?”

Nancy Dunis is a member of Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.




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