Friday, October 12, 2012

A Big Storm!

I thought that would get your attention, but I'm not talking about the system presently rumbling through Utah.

Today is the 50th anniversary of the 1962 Columbus Day Storm, which was produced by the most powerful extratropical cyclone to affect the west coast of the United States during the instrumented record.  It was an unbelievable event, and there hasn't been anything like it since.

The cyclone could be traced to Typhoon Freda in the western tropical Pacific.  Freda underwent extratropical transition, migrated across the Pacific, and then intensified off the Oregon coast, attaining of minimum central pressure of 955 mb.  Analyses from Lynott and Cramer (1966) show the structure of the storm as it rumbled up the Pacific Northwest coast.

Source: Lynott and Cramer (1966)
In a summary of the storm posted on his blog, Cliff Mass of the University of Washington notes that the storm killed 46 and blew down 15 billion board feet of timber.  Peak gusts were ridiculous.  130+ mph along the Oregon Coast, 116 in Portland, 106 in Troutdale, etc.  Some of these are estimates due to destroyed anemometers.

Have a look at Cliff's summary provided at the link above for more information, or see his book The Weather of the Pacific Northwest.


  1. Is there any good data on temps/freezing levels associated with the 1962 storm? Just curious... I can only find RAOBs archived back to the 1970s.

    Also, as far as our current closed low: This looks like the type of system that is a big contributor to the autumn precip max in much of eastern Utah, which peaks right around early October. The primary moisture source in this case is the Gulf of California. In contrast, similar closed lows during the winter and spring seasons rarely seem to pick up much moisture from there.

  2. I should say "a" primary moisture source, although based on the wind fields I think that most of the moisture over Utah today originated there.