A Look Back in Time: Storm Carrying Hurricane Strength Winds Hits Western Washington Causing Millions of Dollars in Damage


Storms bringing hurricane force winds struck Western Washington on Friday, Oct. 12, and Saturday Oct. 13, 1962. The Chronicle published several front page stories on the storm and its aftermath in its Monday, Oct. 15, 1962, edition.

“Damage to Lewis County from the Columbus Day storm will be enormous — and it will include hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses to the agriculture industry. The total loss can be several million,” The Chronicle reported.

According to The Chronicle, between 400 and 500 farm structures in Lewis County were expected to be “complete losses.”

The loss of chickens was believed to be high as well. On one farm on Buck Road, a chicken house braced for the storm managed to survive the storm before collapsing on Sunday, resulting in the deaths of 30,000 chickens. An estimated 8,000 fryer chickens had been taken out of the chicken house before its collapse.

“There were also reports of several barns falling to crush livestock, or injure them so badly they had to be shot,” The Chronicle reported.

During the storm, all of Lewis County lost power, but the Public Utility District (PUD) had managed to restore 90% of service. Several hundred rural homes reportedly remained without power. Many of those homes also lacked water, as pump motors were not working. PUD crews were reportedly working “dawn-to-daylight” schedules to restore power with about 10 extra crewmen and local electricians assisting the PUD in its efforts.

People were urged to stay away from Fort Borst Park by Centralia Park Superintendent Vern Fowler on Monday, Oct. 15. According to Fowler, the danger was caused by hundreds of broken limbs hanging from the trees that could fall at any time. Despite the park’s closure, “many” people were in the park on Sunday, Oct. 14.


Saturday, Oct. 15, 1932

• George Erickson died on Friday, Oct. 14, in Centralia following a long illness. Erickson was 56 years old and a former Alaskan miner. Letters found in his possession revealed his parents and brother lived in Minneapolis and notification was sent to them.

• Mary Mullen, a resident of Tacoma, received minor injuries when she skidded and crashed into a bus north of Chehalis on the evening of Friday, Oct. 14. Reports from Mullen and the bus driver were filed at the Chehalis Police Station with both stating the accident was caused by skidding on wet pavement.

• U.S. Sen. Clarence Dill was scheduled to speak on Tuesday, Oct. 18, at the junior high school auditorium in Chehalis. He was expected to discuss national issues and the “lumber situation,” The Chronicle reported. Dill represented Eastern Washington in Congress for two terms before being narrowly defeated for a third term after voting against joining World War I. He went on to represent Washington state for two terms in the U.S. Senate from 1923 to 1935.

• Members of the Centralia Chamber of Commerce were expected to meet in Tenino the night of Tuesday, Oct. 18. The Centralia Chamber had been invited to a chicken dinner hosted by the Tenino Chamber of Commerce. The Centralians were expected to bring with them the prize won by Tenino for its wooden float at Centralia’s pioneer parade in August 1931.

• The October jury term was expected to begin on Monday, Oct. 17, for Lewis County Superior Court. Eight criminal cases and five civil cases were expected to be tried. Among the cases expected to be brought before the court was the first-degree murder tiral of Albert Ekstrom and Fred Bremer, who were charged with killing William Meyers at his home in eastern Lewis County. The lawyer for Ekstrom had apparently filed a motion to separate Ekstrom and Bremer’s cases. It was speculated Ekstrom’s lawyer wanted to call Bremer’s wife to testify on his client's behalf, something she would be unable to do if the two were tried together.

• The Christian Endeavor Society was expected to meet at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Chehalis on Sunday, Oct. 16, at 6:30 p.m. The group was to hold a discussion on “The Truth About Alcohol.” The church’s pastor, Rev. J.C. Tourtellot, was scheduled to deliver two sermons on Sunday. The theme of the sermon for the morning service was expected to be “The Old Home Church” while the subject of his sermon for the 7:30 p.m. service was expected to be “What Is Hell?”

• C.R. Wood used to tell his friends “don’t you worry about my hunting luck. Some day a deer will jump right in my arms,” The Chronicle reported. “He was wrong and yet he was right.” According to The Chronicle, Wood, a Rochester resident, had been driving on a morning during the week of Oct. 9 through 15 when a deer ran in front of his truck. The deer was reportedly 204 pounds, the heaviest deer reported in the area since the start of the hunting season. The only damage to Wood’s truck was a damaged headlight.


Thursday, Oct. 15, 1942

• Gov. Arthur Langlie was in Lewis County on Wednesday, Oct. 14, where he reviewed the Centralia-Chehalis unit of the Washington State Guard. The review took place at the armory in Centralia where he took the time to speak briefly with every member of the guard. “Your company here has the reputation of being a fine one,” Langlie said. “Let us constantly strive to keep it that way.” Langlie’s arrival came during a recruiting drive for the guard, as its ranks were becoming increasingly depleted due to the drafting of soldiers for World War II.

• Chehalis beat its annual bond drive goal for 1942 by two months, raising a total of $1,037,787.35 as of Thursday, Oct. 15. The goal for the year was to raise $1 million. “The Chehalis achievement is but another in a long series of successful bond campaigns. Others in which the people of this community have been interested include the purchase of a fighter plane, a purchase of a tank and a share in the purchase of a bomber plane,” The Chronicle reported.

• The Centralia scrap metal drive was scheduled to end on Saturday, Oct. 17, and Centralians were being encouraged to look for metal. “Centralians had been asked today to take another look in their attics, basements and closets for salvageable metal needed to speed America’s war effort,” The Chronicle reported. The Chronicle itself played a role in the local drive, after newspapers around the country were encouraged by the government to support the war effort. “Government leaders called on the press for assistance when a bogged-down effort to collect scrap saw steel mills dangerously near exhaustion of raw material,” The Chronicle reported. On Saturday, Oct. 17, six trucks and a crew of 50 high school boys were expected to remove “sizable piles” of scrap metal from the school yards across Centralia and take them directly to railroad cars. Future Farmers of America (FFA) was also enlisted in the effort, as Centralia High School’s FFA members checked over farm scrap and industrial machinery “with several trucks and armed with cutting torches.”

• Brack Sturgill, a 22-year-old graduate of Centralia High School, was reported as a crew member on board one of the American tankers hit by Japanese torpedoes off the Pacific coast. Sturgill, who had worked as a carrier for The Chronicle, was safely back in Centralia visiting his parents. The ship Sturgill was on was not as lucky. “The vessel … was the one that finally burned and sank while being towed to port after a torpedo almost tore off its bow. One member of the ship’s crew lost his life,” The Chronicle reported. Sturgill had called the Japanese submarine that attacked his boat “a lousy shot,” adding the submarine had shot three torpedoes before hitting the boat.

• Cascade and West Side elementary schools were “leading the way” in raising scrap metal, according to Chehalis School District Superintendent J.D. Glann, adding the schools were piling up “ton after ton” of scrap metal. “With children being classed as soldiers and promotions being given on the basis of the amount of scrap being brought in, the little soldiers are advancing in rank so rapidly the halls are filled with high ranking officers. Several pupils may receive the rank of commander-in-chief by contributing a ton of scrap to the pile,” The Chronicle reported. The piles of collected scrap metal at the junior and senior high schools were reportedly much smaller than the piles collected at elementary schools, with The Chronicle declaring “the younger children have taken the scrap away.”

• Absentee ballots for the Nov. 3 general election were announced to be available at the Lewis County Auditor’s Office. To cast an absentee ballot, those living in cities and towns were required to obtain registration certificates from their local registration officers before coming to the courthouse to obtain their ballots.

• Women were being encouraged to register as nurses’ aides at the Red Cross headquarters in Chehalis. The Red Cross was collaborating with the Office of Civilian Defense and had released a nationwide appeal for 100,000 nurses’ aides. An “intensive” 80-hour training course was to be offered after which nurses’ aides were expected to serve 150 hours per year at a hospital. The appeal for nurses’ aides appears to have been driven, at least in part, out of a fear of air raids from enemy nations during World War II.


Wednesday, Oct. 15, 1952

• The Washington State Weed Association was set to meet in Chehalis on Oct. 27 and 28. The meeting was expected to bring together 300 farmers and representatives from state and industrial groups for a two day session. The meeting was to be held at the St. Helens Hotel and the Chehalis Elks’ Lodge Hall. The group was expected to discuss different “war fronts” against weeds, including the “tansy menace.”

• Plans for a music room and gymnasium at the Chehalis High School had been sent to the state government for approval, according to Chehalis School District Superintendent Chester Rhodes. The additions to what would later be renamed W.F. West High School were expected to cost as much as $400,000. According to Rhodes, the school was designed so that its size could be more than doubled by new additions.

• Lewis and Pierce counties were working together on a bridge project expected to span the Nisqually River 12 miles east of Elbe. Commissioners from the two counties had set Oct. 28 for the opening of bids to work on the bridge.

• The Washington State Forestry Department’s Chehalis office blamed four fires that were burning in the region on hunters. Of the eight fires in the area, the remaining four were the result of permitted fires that had gotten out of control.

• Lewis County Republicans were expected to gather in Winlock the night of Oct. 15 for what was expected to be their biggest rally of the 1952 campaign. Dinner was to be served in the Winlock school cafeteria from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Tickets could be purchased at the door for $1.50. Among those expected to make an appearance were Gov. Arthur Langlie and U.S. Sen. Harry Cain.

• A two-bedroom house in Centralia with an electric stove and hot water tank was listed for $50 a month to rent.

• The adult leaders of Cub Scout Pack 85 held their monthly meeting in Chehalis. A pack meeting was also scheduled for Oct. 30 and was expected to feature the presentation of awards.


Monday, Oct. 15, 1962

• Lewis County schools opened on Monday despite the damage from the storm on the night of Friday, Oct. 12. The only closure was a school center in Rochester. School district superintendents listed varying levels of damage from the storm. In Centralia, an estimated $10,000 in damage was done to school buildings. Chehalis and Centralia had been expected to play against one another in a football game on Friday night but were forced to postpone until Monday due to the storm.

• Areas around Western Washington were declared disaster areas on Monday, Oct. 15. The storms that hit the area had killed nine people according to an Associated Press story featured in The Chronicle. President John Kennedy had asked the Small Business Administration to give “all possible” assistance to the victims of the storm. “The roar of power saws cutting through downed trees was a common sound over the weekend as power and telephone companies moved several hundred men into the field to restore power and telephone service,” the story reported.

• Chehalis Police Chief Rollyn Tucker was critically injured during the storm on Friday, Oct. 12. Tucker was apparently the only person seriously injured during the storm in the Twin Cities. He received a fractured skull when a hanger at the Chehalis Airport collapsed on him. He was taken to the Tacoma General Hospital where he underwent several hours of “skull” surgery on Saturday afternoon and night. According to his family, Tucker was expected to recover “satisfactorily.”

• Eugene Bingman was injured at the World’s Fair in Seattle on Sunday, Oct. 14, after falling 40 feet and breaking his right arm. The Morton resident was the arena director of the international logging championship contest at the fair. He fell from a spar tree when a branch snapped. He crashed into a fence, which partially broke his fall, The Chronicle reported.

• A total of 93,344 people attended the Seattle World’s Fair on Sunday, Oct. 14. No attendance number was reported for Saturday, Oct. 13, possibly because of a closure of the fair due to the storms that hit the region on Friday and Saturday. After Sunday, a total of 9,032,218 people had visited the fair since its opening. Seven days were left before the fair closed.

• A two-bedroom house on 13th Street in Chehalis was listed for $75 a month in rent.

• A four-bedroom house in Chehalis was listed for $12,000. The house included an automatic washinger, a dryer, a refrigerator, electric heat and drapes.