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About Clark County > Proud Past > Swept away: Floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes (1948-72)

Swept away: Floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes (1948-72)

The climate in Clark County is usually on the mild side. It is not an area where residents expect to see floods, hurricanes, or even tornados. But sometimes Mother Nature plays a few tricks.

Vanport Flood of 1948

There were no flood-control dams on the Columbia River in the spring of 1948, when a rush of snow melt headed out to sea. Flood emergencies were battled all along Clark County's waterfront as the Columbia River continued to rise toward a crest of 31 feet.

The flood had an even bigger impact across the river, where it swept away Oregon's second-largest city, Vanport, and killed 15 people. Another seven were never found. The city of temporary apartments had been built during World War II to accommodate Clark County's shipyard workers.

The county has faced rising flood waters on more than a few other occasions, but never with such devastating results.

Columbus Day blows us away (1962)

Three people died and 70 were injured in the 1962 Columbus Day Storm. Gusts were noted up to 92 mph in Vancouver when the storm hit the evening of October 12, 1962. The wind toppled trees, blew off roofs, and knocked over about 175 telephone poles.

A total of 35,000 people were left without power because of the storm, which caused an estimated $15 million in property damage. Although it had the power of a hurricane, technically it was called a windstorm.

Tornado tears through county (1972)

We've all heard of those Midwest cities turned into splinters by tornadoes, but Clark County? For a few seconds on the afternoon of April 5, 1972, an area in East Vancouver saw one of the eerie funnel clouds firsthand. It touched down here with unexpected force and struck nowhere else before disappearing.

Six people died, 300 people were injured, and damage totaled at least $3.3 million as the tornado bounced its way north from the Washington shore of the Columbia River. Five of the victims died in the destruction of a grocery store, the sixth perished in the collapse of a bowling alley wall. Although Peter S. Ogden Elementary School was heavily damaged, miraculously there were no casualties.

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Street address: 1300 Franklin Street, Floor 6, Vancouver, WA 98660
Mailing address: P.O. Box 5000, Vancouver, WA 98666-5000
Main phone: (360) 397-6012 | FAX: (360) 397-6015
E-mail: pio@clark.wa.gov

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