1972 Portland–Vancouver tornado

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1972 Portland–Vancouver Tornado
F3 tornado
Formed April 5, 1972
Max rating1 F3 tornado
Damage $3–5 million (1972 USD)
Casualties 6 fatalities, 301 injuries
Areas affected Northern Oregon, Southern Washington
1Most severe tornado damage; see Fujita scale

The 1972 Portland–Vancouver Tornado was a deadly F3 tornado that struck Portland, Oregon, and Vancouver, Washington, on April 5, 1972. The tornado carved a nine-mile (14 km) path of destruction across the heavily populated Portland metropolitan area, leaving 6 people dead and 301 injured while causing $3–5 million (1972 USD) in damage. It was the deadliest tornado in the United States in 1972 and remains the deadliest tornado in the history of the Pacific Northwest.[1][2] It was the first F3 tornado to strike Oregon since June 3, 1894, and no tornadoes in Oregon or Washington have equalled its intensity ever since.[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.[2]


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).[2][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, a drive-in theater screen and damaged around 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.[1] 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 several 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).[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b ""Tornado of April 5, 1972, Vancouver, Washington" Details". Waymark. Retrieved 2006-12-05. 
  2. ^ a b c d National Weather Service (2006). "NWS Oregon Tornadoes". NOAA. Retrieved 2006-12-05. 
  3. ^ Grazulis, Thomas P. (1993). Significant tornadoes, 1680-1991. St. Johnsbury, Vt.: Environmental Films. ISBN 1-879362-03-1. 
  4. ^ NCDC (1972). "Oregon Event Report 141987". NOAA. Archived from the original on January 17, 2008. Retrieved 2006-12-05. 
  5. ^ Columbian.com - History Archived March 7, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ NBC Evening News (1972). "Headline: Washington Tornado". Vanderbilt Television Archive. Archived from the original on 2009-05-13. Retrieved 2006-12-05.