The April 5, 1972 F3 tornado remains the deadliest in the Pacific Northwest

Randi Mann
·2 min read
The April 5, 1972 F3 tornado remains the deadliest in the Pacific Northwest
The April 5, 1972 F3 tornado remains the deadliest in the Pacific Northwest

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Tornadoes are extremely rare in the Pacific Northwest. The graphic below illustrates how many days it's been since a tornado warning has occurred in each area.

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On April 5, 1972, an unusually intense squall line hit Oregon and Washington. The storm came with four tornadoes. The strongest twister was an F3 tornado that hit Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, Wash. The last time an F3 tornado struck Oregon was on June 3, 1894.

The event is called the Portland–Vancouver Tornado. The twister travelled 14 km across the Portland–Vancouver metropolitan area. The area was heavily populated. In its path, it killed six people, injured 300, and caused $25.25 million in damage. It's the deadliest tornado in Pacific Northwest history.

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Vancouver, Wash. received the worst of the damage. The tornado struck the city at 12:51 p.m. and proceeded to destroy a grocery store, elementary school (where it injured 70 students), bowling alley, and a drive-in theatre. The tornado also damaged approximately 100 homes, vehicles, trees, and power lines.

Courtesy NWS Portland
Courtesy NWS Portland

Aftermath of a 1972 Portland–Vancouver tornado. Courtesy of NWS Portland

The Portland–Vancouver Tornado is so rare because Oregon and Washington usually get one or two weak tornadoes each year. This is the only deadly tornado in Washington's history. In Oregon, there were a few deaths reported dating back to 1894.

The Pacific Northwest isn't usually susceptible to strong tornadoes because the area is protected by the cool waters of the Pacific Ocean. The cool water regulates temperature changes, making it difficult for tornadoes to form.

To learn more about the rare Portland–Vancouver Tornado, listen to today's episode of "This Day In Weather History."

This Day In Weather History is a daily podcast by The Weather Network that features unique and informative stories from host Chris Mei.

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Thumbnail: Courtesy of NWS Portland