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November 2018

Stormy Behavior

"The worst storm I have ever seen is approaching Portland and the Willamette Valley right now," meteorologist John C. "Jack" Capell warned listeners via radio on the evening of the 1962 Columbus Day Storm.

So opens A Deadly Wind, in which author John Dodge uses research and interviews with survivors of the storm to paint a picture of the event, sharing how the storm shaped the lives of Oregonians.

Today on the blog as part of University Press #TurnItUP week highlighting local publishing, John shares his findings from a different side of the storm’s history: how the event affected different age groups psychologically.


STORMY BEHAVIOR    

Young children rushed outside to the let the powerful winds propel their bicycles or lift them off their feet in fanciful flight. Friday night commuters drove home at the peak of the storm, mindless of falling trees, downed power lines and debris slicing through the air. Families huddled in their living rooms in front of single pane picture windows that bowed and exploded in gusts of wind. Homeowners ventured outside as the winds howled, determined to prop up and protect trees, patios, roofs and antenna, often in vain, and at great risk.


 

Photograph of Kelso Airport in Southwest Washington Courtesy of the Cowlitz County Historical Museum, Kelso, Washington.


In hindsight, much of the behavior at the height of the 1962 Columbus Day Storm was naïve, impulsive and ill-advised. But the residents of the Pacific Northwest had no frame of reference, no experience to guide their actions in the face of an unprecedented and deadly windstorm.

Dr. Ralph Crawshaw, a Beaverton, OR.-based psychiatrist in 1962, studied the reactions of different age groups of storm survivors. He found that young children in the absence of a parent exhibited very little fear.

Walter Breitenstein was an eight-year-old walking home from school southeast of Salem, OR. that Friday afternoon as the winds at his back roared. “I leaned backward, spreading my coat open, making a little hop and the wind carried me effortlessly. It was like I was flying.”

He flew past his house, but was brought back to earth by the powerful sight of his neighbor’s livestock watering tank as it flew through the air and crashed into a nearby fence. “I decided I better go home,” he recalled.














 

 

 

 

 

Photograph of a crushed car in Portland. Courtesy of Oregon Historical Society.

 

Teenagers and young adults as a group confronted the storm head-on, shielding themselves with a sense of immortality. At the heavily-wooded University of Oregon campus in Eugene, students gathered outside in an excited group, enjoying the spectacle of the storm as trees fell all around them and power lines glowed with short circuits. Many teenagers hopped in their cars at the height of the storm to visit friends or witness the damage in their neighborhoods. “There was much socializing in this age group, for the exhilaration needed to be shared,” Crawshaw said.

Crawshaw found numerous examples of adults trying to protect their property as the storm raged. Bill and Carolyn Baker were living in north Seattle, WA. She was nine months pregnant when the storm struck. At the peak of the storm, her husband climbed on the roof to reattach the television antennae. “I was terrified that my husband would be blown off the roof and killed, and my child would be fatherless,” she said 40 years after the storm. Baker survived, but Lawrence Parrie, who was stationed by Sand Point Naval Air Station in Seattle, was the victim of tragic irony. He waited until the storm had passed Saturday morning to climb on the roof of his three-story barracks to repair a TV antennae. He slipped and fell to his death.

The storm struck the Portland, OR. region just as Friday night commuter traffic was beginning to build. Commuters heading home would have been better served riding out the storm at their workplace, Crawshaw noted. “However, they undertook harrowing trips home through flying debris, driving over downed high-power lines and searching out devious ways to get through the roads blocked by fallen trees,” the psychiatrist said.

After collecting hundreds of storm survivor stories to help shape “A Deadly Wind: The 1962 Columbus Day Storm,” I had this reoccurring thought: It’s a wonder more people weren’t killed or seriously injured."

 

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Find A Deadly Wind here

John Dodge was a columnist, editorial page writer, and investigative reporter for the Olympian before retiring in 2015 after an award-winning career spanning forty years. Dodge is a veteran of natural disaster reporting, including the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, the 1989 Bay Area earthquake, the 2001 Nisqually earthquake, and numerous damaging windstorms and floods. He experienced the Columbus Day Storm as a young teenager and wrote about the storm at its twenty-fifth, fortieth, and fiftieth anniversaries. He lives in Olympia, Washington, with his wife, Barbara Digman.








 

 

 

 

Join Author Peter Nathaniel Malae on his Book Tour

Today we’re inviting you to join Peter Nathaniel Malae as he travels to bookstores and literary centers reading passages from his new novel, Son of Amity. Peter has been a featured reader at Powell’s Books on Hawthorne and Third Street Books in Salem among other bookstores.

 

 

In this new novel by Peter, a family is caught in the crossroads of violence and loss in the small town of Amity, Oregon. Sissy, Michael, and Pika share a run-down house in Amity and must contend with their individual demons in a region plagued by poverty and addiction. Peter deals with dark subjects in Son of Amity with a steady gaze that also admits the moments of light and redemption.

 

Take a (virtual) seat in the crowd as Peter reads from Son of Amity and paints a picture of the town in which his story takes place:

 

“Poor, white people lived down here. Undernourished, overfed, jobless white people. HHS-invested white people. Gelatinous-spined, weighed down stooping from Ding Dongs and Swanson’s TV dinners white people. For all he knew, he could have been in the West Virginia Appalachians, the Arkansas Ozarks. Strings of spat Cope on the lawn, rusting tractors posted up in gravelly driveways. A trampoline with duct-taped springs and grips sitting on the fenceless divide of shared property lines, dozens of plastic toys scattered across the yards like miniature tornado towns post-blast, spotted beards of clumpy moss uprooting the tiles of rooftops. The white people were out there on the dipping, slanted, paint-chipped front porches, ass-planted on cushion-smashed chairs like toads on a rotting log. The chronically obese and tweaker-thin were both watching him come into their town without connection or invitation or permission, suspicious brown man in a beanie up to no good in his beat-up truck from post-war Japan. Fifteen miles an hour the legal cap, car show investigation of anyone entering the town limits.”

 

 


 

“He wasn’t sure how he felt about what he saw. He knew being poor, but this was a different kind of poor, maybe even a worse kind. Seemed stagnant around here, like he was driving through a time warp, the people sitting in their own shit. In the city, everyone was moving on poverty. Sidestepping it, passing it on, lugging it across a borough for deposit.”

 


 

Take a look at our literary calendar and make sure you save the date for his upcoming readings --Peter will be reading at the Salem, OR Book Bin on Friday November 2 at 7 PM, and will be participating in a pop-up reading at the Portland Art Museum during the Portland Book Festival on Saturday, November 10!

 

 

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Peter Nathaniel Malae is is the author of the novels, Our Frail Blood and What We Are; the story collection, Teach the Free Man; and the play, The Question. A former Steinbeck, MacDowell, Arts Council Silicon Valley, and Oregon Literary Arts Fellow, Malae lives in western Oregon.

Reviews of Son of Amity:

"From the farthest, wettest corner of war-damaged America, Peter Nathaniel Malae brings us the story of a family bound by a shared history of violence, and liberated by the miracle of shared mercy. Written with immense intellect and swagger, Son of Amity imbues the street-level realities ofour times in our cities, towns, prisons, and psyches with the power of myth."  Jon Raymond, author of Freebird and The Half-Life

"This is a tough, haunting, compelling bookone that deals withour society now, with violence and poverty and identity and the very real consequences of being in the crosshairs of war. What a marvel the language is, too. Every sentence is carefully built. Malae ia a powerhouse of a writer." Pauls Toutonghi, author of Dog, Gone and Evel Knievel Days

 

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