1972 Portland–Vancouver tornado

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1972 Portland–Vancouver Tornado
Formed April 5, 1972
Max rating1 F3 tornado
Damage $3–5 million (1972 USD)
Fatalities 6
Areas affected Northern Oregon, Southern Washington
1Most severe tornado damage; see Fujita scale

The 1972 Portland–Vancouver Tornado was a destructive tornado that struck on April 5, 1972. The tornado carved a nine-mile (14 km) path of destruction across Oregon and Washington. The tornado left 6 people dead, 301 injured and $3–5 million (1972 USD) in damage. The tornado was considered the worst to hit the state of Washington and Oregon since 1871 and was the deadliest tornado in 1972. While the Portland-Vancouver tornado was not the first F3 tornado in Washington (December 12, 1969 in the Seattle area), it was the only recorded F3 tornado in Oregon history.[1] It is also the deadliest recorded tornado in West Coast history.[2][3]

Storm history[edit]

A very turbulent squall line of thunderstorms moved northeast across Portland, Oregon and was tracked by the National Weather Service. The strongest thunderstorm was tracked near the town of Tigard. The tornado formed from this thunderstorm and touched down near the edge of the Columbia River. The tornado moved 1½ miles before crossing the Oregon/Washington border. The tornado was difficult to observe because of the fog and the mud and flying debris drawn up by the tornado. After making landfall on the Washington side of the Columbia River, the tornado continued its 9-mile (14 km) journey before dissipating.[3]


In Oregon, the tornado damaged four boat moorings and 50 small boats. Damage in Oregon from the tornado totaled up to $250,000 dollars (1972 USD).[3][4]

In east Vancouver, the tornado struck at 12:51 p.m. (PST), where it destroyed a grocery store, along with Peter S. Ogden Elementary School injuring 70 students.[5] Nearby, the storm demolished a bowling alley and damaged 100 homes, some severely. Trees and power lines were downed and vehicles were flipped as well.[6] Overall, the tornado killed six people and left 3-5 million dollars (1972 USD) damage in Washington.[2] Two F2 tornadoes and another F3 touched down in rural parts of Washington state later that day, though these tornadoes caused no fatalities. The small severe weather outbreak was the deadliest and most significant tornado event to occur in the Pacific northwest.

Non-tornadic events[edit]

High winds brought by the thunderstorms caused minimal tree damage. In Tigard, the thunderstorm that spawned the tornado tore the roof off a warehouse and damaged five parked cars. A pressure jump of 0.12 inches (3.0 mm) was recorded by the National Weather Service. The Portland, Oregon National Weather Service office, approximately one mile east of the tornado touchdown, recorded winds gusting up to 63 mph (101 km/h). Another weather station reported sustained winds of 80 mph (130 km/h).[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.tornadohistoryproject.com
  2. ^ a b ""Tornado of April 5, 1972, Vancouver, Washington" Details". Waymark. Retrieved 2006-12-05. 
  3. ^ a b c d National Weather Service (2006). "NWS Oregon Tornadoes". NOAA. Retrieved 2006-12-05. 
  4. ^ NCDC (1972). "Oregon Event Report 141987". NOAA. Retrieved 2006-12-05. 
  5. ^ Columbian.com - History
  6. ^ NBC Evening News (1972). "Headline: Washington Tornado". Vanderbilt Television Archive. Archived from the original on 2009-05-13. Retrieved 2006-12-05.