1972 Portland–Vancouver tornado

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1972 Portland–Vancouver Tornado
F3 tornado
FormedApril 5, 1972
Max rating1F3 tornado
Damage$3–5 million (1972 USD)
Casualties6 fatalities, 301 injuries
Areas affectedNorthern 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 Wednesday, 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]

The National Weather Service tracked a very turbulent squall line of thunderstorms moving northeasterly across Portland, Oregon, the strongest of which was near the city of Tigard. The tornado formed from this storm and touched down near the edge of the Columbia River, moving 1½ miles before crossing the river. 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 river, it continued its 9-mile (14 km) journey before dissipating.[2]



In Portland, the tornado damaged four boat moorings and 50 small boats. Damage in Oregon from the tornado totaled up to $250,000 (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 several vehicles were flipped as well.[6] Overall, the tornado killed six people and left $3–5 million (1972 USD) in damage.[1] Two F2 tornadoes and another F3 touched down in Coulee City, Kettle Falls and Creston in Washington state later that day, though these tornadoes caused no fatalities.[7][8] The small weather outbreak was the deadliest and most significant tornado event to occur in the Pacific Northwest, with winds of up to 206 miles per hour (332 km/h).[9]

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.
  7. ^ http://www.tornadohistoryproject.com/custom/14422621
  8. ^ http://www.tornadohistoryproject.com/tornado/19720405.53.3
  9. ^ Robinson, Erik (April 5, 2002). "Vancouver's tornado of 1972: What a twister turned deadly". The Columbian. p. A1.