Our readers remember the tornado of April 5, 1972

Scene of devastation as Waremart grocery store lies in rubble after the 1972 tornado. Below is store when it was new.

Peter S. Ogden School, before and after.

The storm struck at 12:51 p.m. and it wasn't long before St. Joseph Community Hospital was crowded with injured people of all ages, frightened and crying children, worried parents and dozens of white-clad doctors, nurses and aides trying to help all of them.

The hospital - open in its new location only a little more than a week after a move from the downtown area - found itself knee-deep in grief, pain and problems.

Damage was estimated at over $3 million, leaving six dead, and about 300 hundred injured, which included about 70 school children from the demolished Peter S. Ogden Elementary School.

Students from Fort Vancouver High School watched the elementary school collapse and without hesitation, they ran to help the kids. They lifted debris off the kids and did minor first aid.

Here are some of your neighbors' memories:


Watching the news last night brought back horrid memories for me of the 1972 tornado.

I was in kindergarten at Peter S. Ogden when the tornado hit. My mom and younger sister were at home watching the black skies and wind whip around our neighborhood and wondering what was happening.

When my Mom finally heard the news that Peter S. Ogden has collapsed and Fort Vancouver High School students had run to help, she immediately went into panic mode. My mother had 2 children at Ogden and one at Fort Vancouver High.

It was hours before she finally knew that her children were safe but that one of her best friends had been killed at the bowling alley.

Still to this day I am afraid of lightening and big wind storms.

Kimberly (Marsh) Merrill
Submitted January 11, 2008


I was in the Vancouver, WA tornado. I was in the second grade, where I attended James John Elementary in Portland. We are were on a field trip to Franz bakery and I will remember that day for the rest of my life. It took me 25 years before I finally was able to convince my friends I was telling the truth.

Looking back and remembering how I sensed the air aftering getting off of the school bus, seems pretty deep for an 8 year old. However, I remember how quiet and weird it felt outside. The sky looked a strange color but what did I know other than something didn't feel right.

We proceeded to go into the bakery and toured for what seemed like just a few minutes when adults began grabbing us kids and throwing us onto the floors under the ovens. I laid on my back staring at a huge window across from where I was. I remember it getting comletely black outside and very quiet. Then it came and I could feel the building shaking and the loudest noise I have ever hard - now I understand when they describe a freight train sound. I still didn't realize what was happening at the time. It was amazing!! Then it was gone as quickly as it came. It was crazy and I don't remember much of the trip back or exactly how we got back; I was dazed. The only thing I can remember thereafter was the reaction of my mom when she finally realized I was okay.

I am thankful not many people died that day.

Cathi (Johnson) Czyzewski
Submitted May 20, 2007


I was a junior at Ft. Vancouver High School. We were in Home Ec., when we noticed blackness through the windows of our classroom. The air pressure changed for reasons we didn't understand (at the time), and the atmosphere became strangely calm. Some of us went outside to investigate. Suddenly, hail the size of golf balls came ripping down. It hurt so bad we retreated indoors.

As we watched the storm from inside, looking in the direction of Peter S. Ogden, we saw a storm hit the school. The roof literally lifted off the walls, the walls collapsed, and the roof slammed down on the demolished school. It was as if it happened in slow motion. We realized in an instant we had to do SOMETHING, not just stand there.

As we ran for the grade school, our teachers were screaming at us to, "come back, it's too dangerous over there and there is nothing you can do!" Thank God we didn't listen. I was too scared to actually enter the school, afraid of what I might see. But I was in the field between the two schools, helping aid dozens of children to the safety of our gymnasium. Bloody, scared, hurt, crying children. The gym filled quickly with terrified kids. We spread our coats on the floor for them, trying make them comfortable.

Several times the lights went out. Each time, kids screaming in terror. We had to assure these kids we were safe, even though we didn't know for sure ourselves. Slowly, parents came to get their kids. I've never seen so many happy tears in my (now 52 years) life.

The phones were jammed and I couldn't get hold of my mom to let her know I was safe. Yet through this whole time, I couldn't find my brother, a sophomore also at Fort. When I finally got through, I told my mom I couldn't find George. She said he'd walked home early through the woods, and didn't even know there was a storm, only that it was, "a little windy." What a dork!

The children of Peter S. Ogden, presented to us a plaque of their appreciation. I hope that plaque is still hanging somewhere in the school. It symbolizes a part of the history of both Ft. Vancouver High School, and Peter S. Ogden Elementary School, and it ties us together.

I feel good about that day, and would like to think I helped make a difference to a lot of little kids and their families.

I thank God, we didn't listen to our teachers.

Sue Nevitt-Marlette
lifelong resident of Vancouver, Washington
Submitted April 21, 2007


I remember the day like yesterday!.....

I was in Mrs. Andersons' first grade class. We were watchin the film "Magic Sneakers" for the third time. The first time we watched the movie, the film broke. The second time we watched it, the projector broke. The third and final time was when the tornado hit. I've never seen the film to the very end and I don't care too.

The next thing I remember, the weather had dramaticaly changed with in a matter of seconds and the windows were about to shatter, Mrs. Anderson yelled..."everyone, under your desks!" When I finally came to and stood up, I couldn't see out of my eyes. After wiping the blood and debris out of my eyes, I regained sight. Not knowing what had happened, Mrs. Anderson yelled once again to get behind the chalkboard, which was the only standing item in the room besides the remaining brick walls. Another tornado was supposedly on the way towards the school. I recall through out the next couple of hours we received numerous warnings of "expected" tornados'. I remember being very disappointed because of my favorite shirt being soaked in blood.

My older brother was attending Fort Vancouver High, and I was thrilled to finally see him once again, after him and many other heroic high school students came running to our rescue. After many of the elementary students had been put into ambulances and immediatly taken to the hospital, the high school students rummaged through what was left of my school and took anyone and everyone they could find and carried them on foot over to Fort Vancouver High School. I remember everybody piling into the mens locker room for further safety, waiting to be cleared of all storms.

I saw my best friends mom searching for Jocelyn Spicer, and rembering my self being very upset because I could not see or find her. I should have went to the hospital due to a deep cut to my head, but begged my brother not to take me because I was too scared. I must have fallen asleep because the next thing that I remember was that I was home safe with my mom, dad, sister, and brother. To this day.... I hate storms, especially wind, hail, thunder, and lightning storms.

Joni Tooley (Halvorson)
Submitted February 13, 2007


I was watching the KGW 50th Anniversary show last night and learned that the Columbus Day storm was the most powerful non-hurricane wind storm of the 20th centry. I found your article through google and wanted to share my memories with you.

I was 7 years old at the time. I was living in Albany with my mother, step-father, sister and brother. I remember being let out of school early which was an unusual treat for a second grader. As I was walking home from school, my step-father met me along the way to walk me home. This, too, was an unusual treat. I was completely unaware of the impending storm and just thought the windy day was a lot of fun.

We lived in an apartment at the back of a large house that had been converted to 3 or 4 apartments. We sat huddled in the living room with several other children who lived in the building. All of the families had gathered in our apartment. Us kids just played games by candlelight and looked out the window as the storm raged. At some point, the adults became concerned that a large tree in the back yard might fall on the house so we all moved to an apartment in the front of the building. All of us kids had to hold hands in a long train so we wouldn't blow away.

The next day, all of the adults talked about how the storm had created a lot of jobs and many who had been unemployed would able to work for several weeks. For me, it was just a big adventure and I don't remember being scared at all. I still love windy days and will always remember the "Big Blow".

Kathy Jones
Albany, OR
Submitted December 22, 2006


Graduated Sunset High in June of-62 and was working with the Ferrier shoeing our horses on October 12, 1962. We had heard about the approaching storm just as he got to the farm on Cornell Rd. He said he wanted to get the job done as fast as he could so that he could get back home soon. We worked fast and got the four horses feet shod at about the same time I looked up and watched a VERY large branch off a fir tree moving north, about twenty feet above us, at a high rate of speed. Neither of us had noticed that wind because we were working at the bottom of the property, near the barn and all the wind was above us.

Father was still at work and we didn’t see him for three days. He was at that time working in the Bonneville Bldg on the east side and had to get from there over Skyline Blvd. pass in the west hills. I can only guess as to what he was required to get through but he didn’t get home with the car. The car that remained at home was crushed by a large fir that succumbed to the wind.

Mom kept my brother and I busy cleaning up the mess in the yard and pasture and caring for the rather non chellaunt horses and our one cow. By the time Father got home only the main trunk of the huge tree the flattened our Borgward, honestly a Borgward, was still on the remains. He told us that the Ford had suffered some wounds also but would be serviceable. He also told us how he had “worked” his way home, helping those that didn’t have help and getting fed for his efforts. He said he had been an electrician, an arborist, plumber and firefighter all on his way home, and showed the effects, and smells of it all.

Right now, tonight, I am holed up in the Lopez Island Sheriff’s substation, it’s 0600, it’s still blowing about 50 MPH out of the WSW and there are at least five sail boats aground, right across the road. The downed trees and other debris is at this time immeasurable. The OPALCO Electric crews are just getting out to go to work, and the Public Works guys have started up the saws to begin clearing the roads. I will go out in about an hour to assist with the saw I keep in the trunk of the patrol car.

jimt2
Submitted December 15, 2006


Hi, my name is Robert Kays. I was in the 6th grade at Peter S. when the tornado hit. My memories are implanted in my brain forever and I'm very lucky to be alive. Heres the story!

The bell just rang for lunch break to be over and after just ending a baseball game in the rain as everyone started going back to their classrooms my friend Barrett hit the baseball way out into the field and said "come on lets go get it." We ran out into the middle of the school yard to retrieve the ball. The last of the students just went into their rooms and as far as I know we were the only two kids left outside when it hit. Just as we got the ball and was ready to run back to class the rain turned to hail the size of golf balls. It pounded on us so hard that it knocked us down to the ground and we laid on our stomachs swinging our hands up and down flopping around like a fish out of the water screaming frantically. Barrett said, "lets get out of here" and had trouble standing up the wind got so strong and ran off towards the 6th grade wing. I stood up also and that's when it hit. It instantly got pitch black and everything was flying everywhere. I bent over trying to stay standing up, getting sand blasted by what seemed to be every part of the earth there was. All of the sudden I could barely see something coming at me and zoom, boom. A piece of brick wall about the size of a kitchen window slammed into my left shoulder.

From that point on everything went SLOW MOTION for me. I spun around and around as my body melted to the ground and as fast as I hit the ground I was lifted up into the air by the wind. I kid you not this is all true. Just then I took off like a bullet flying across the school yard and right into the brick wall of the school, went through the wall and as I did the walls and roof came tumbling down on me and there I was, buried in bricks and debris but still conscience and alive.

I laid there in a daze for what seemed to be forever. Don't remember having any pain or anything. I think I thought it was all just a dream or that maybe I was dead. Finally after what seemed like forever I started hearing faint noises from far away then they got louder and louder till I realized light was starting to shine on me. Three high school kids were unburying me and when they got all the building off of me they helped me to my feet.

I stood there on my own with my right arm holding my stomach and my left arm hung straight down. The three kids looked at my left arm and all went "woooooo" and backed up looking at me weird. They pointed at my arm and said 'you all right" Then I looked at my left arm for the first time and when I did it started to hurt.

My left arm got ripped out of its shoulder socket so bad that it stretched my skin far enough as to where my hand actually touched the ground when I stood up.

It started pulsating bad as I looked at it. I grabbed my shirt and it was so soggy from being sand blasted by the earth the it just peeled away from my skin like wet toilet paper. That's when I saw where my shoulder was, was just skin about as big around as an ink pen.

The kids tried to make a sling real quick out of my belt but no way would anything work with that long arm. I told them ya I'm alright and kinda hung onto my dislocated arm and my stomach at the same time. They pointed me in the direction east towards the lettuce fields and ran off to go look for more kids.

I walked across the school field to the street nice and slow, still in slow motion and for sure in lala land. I can remember seeing kids running here and there, screaming going on all over, the school totally demolished. It was all like kinda in the background of my slow motion dream.

I walked across the street into the lettuce fields which were mostly mud, and only made it a little ways when I had to stop and started throwing up blood. My stomach felt like I drank two gallons of water at once and I could feel it swishing around in my stomach.

That's when things got blurry and I just stood there in one place in the middle of the field trying not to fall.

Some friends saw me and ran over to me all laughing and excited and said, "hey cool Kays, no school anymore. Its gone" They saw that I was hurt and asked if I was alright but I just fell over face first in the mud. They carried me the rest of the way across the field to Andreson road and laid me against the curb. I was awake then and can remember the drive in and fence and the lumber yard all over the street. There was a cop standing in the road directing traffic around all the debris and my friends ran up to him and pointed me out. The cop took one look at me from far away too and just walked right in front of the first car and put up his hands to stop.

I guess he asked the little old lady if she could take me to the hospital. The cop and my friends came over and carried me to the car and put me in the front passenger seat, closed the door and she drove off.

All the way to the hospital I kept throwing up blood all over me and her car and I remember her screaming over and over, "oh my God, oh my God." She did it so much and franticly that I yelled at her to shut up. (poor lady,,,sorry) She pulled into St. Joseph emergency parking lot honking her horn all the way to the front door. Then she stopped the car and got out and ran screaming to the door. I opened my door and tried to get out on my own but couldn't and collapsed to the ground. They came out and got me on a wheeled bed and into the hospital I went.

I ended up dislocating my shoulder and breaking all of my ribs and one of my ribs broke so bad that it stuck into my kidney. Hmmmm, that explains the blood.

By then I didn't even know who I was and couldn't even give them my name when they asked.

Meanwhile,,,, my dad was working at Lucky Lager and heard about the tornado wiping out the school. He left work to go and look for me. He says even then when he got to the school yard and was looking all over that things where still flying around. Then believe it or not he found some kids that knew me and they told him they thought I was dead. He looked and looked and then went home and him and my mother started calling hospitals. With all the chaos and me not knowing my name and St. Joseph being brand new and just opening they couldn't find me.

It wasn't till that evening around six my mom says when a nurse who happened to be a neighbor saw me and recognized me and they called my mom and dad. They got to the hospital at six thirty that evening to see me.

That's when the doctors told them that I wasn't going to live that all they could do was keep me out of pain. I was bleeding so bad from the hole on my kidney that they couldn't operate or do anything.After days and days in the hospital my kidney died and just stopped functioning and thus the bleeding stopped.

Well...... I made it and here I am to tell this story.

That is my story! And hey, hi to all if you remember me from then.

Robert Kays
Submitted January 23, 2004


I was in the 6th grade at Peter S. when the tornado hit.My memories are implanted in my brain forever and I'm very lucky to be alive. Heres the story!

The bell just rang for lunch break to be over and after just ending a baseball game in the rain as everyone started going back to their classrooms my friend Barrett hit the baseball way out into the field and said "come on lets go get it." We ran out into the middle of the school yard to retrieve the ball. The last of the students just went into their rooms and as far as I know we were the only two kids left outside when it hit.

Just as we got the ball and was ready to run back to class the rain turned to hail the size of golf balls. It pounded on us so hard that it knocked us down to the ground and we laid on our stomachs swinging our hands up and down flopping around like a fish out of the water screaming frantically. Barrett said, "lets get out of here" and had trouble standing up, the wind got so strong and he ran off towards the 6th grade wing.

I stood up also and that's when it hit. It instantly got pitch black and everything was flying everywhere. I bent over trying to stay standing up, getting sand blasted by what seemed to be every part of the earth there was. All of the sudden I could barely see something coming at me and zoom, boom. A piece of brick wall about the size of a kitchen window slammed into my left shoulder. From that point on everything went SLOW MOTION for me. I spun around and around as my body melted to the ground and as fast as I hit the ground I was lifted up into the air by the wind. I kid you not this is all true.

Just then I took off like a bullet flying across the school yard and right into the brick wall of the school, went through the wall and as I did the walls and roof came tumbling down on me and there I was, buried in bricks and debris but still conscience and alive. I laid there in a daze for what seemed to be forever. Don't remember having any pain or anything. I think I thought it was all just a dream or that maybe I was dead.

Finally after what seemed like forever I started hearing faint noises from far away then they got louder and louder till I realized light was starting to shine on me. Three high school kids were unburying me and when they got all the building off of me they helped me to my feet. I stood there on my own with my right arm holding my stomach and my left arm hung straight down. The three kids looked at my left arm and all went "woooooo" and backed up looking at me weird. They pointed at my arm and said 'you all right" Then I looked at my left arm for the first time and when I did it started to hurt. My left arm got ripped out of its shoulder socket so bad that it stretched my skin far enough as to where my hand actually touched the ground when I stood up. It started pulsating bad as I looked at it. I grabbed my shirt and it was so soggy from being sand blasted by the earth the it just peeled away from my skin like wet toilet paper. That's when I saw where my shoulder was, was just skin about as big around as an ink pen.

The kids tried to make a sling real quick out of my belt but no way would anything work with that long arm. I told them ya I'm alright and kinda hung onto my dislocated arm and my stomach at the same time. They pointed me in the direction east towards the lettuce fields and ran off to go look for more kids. I walked across the school field to the street nice and slow, still in slow motion and for sure in lala land. I can remember seeing kids running here and there, screaming going on all over, the school totally demolished. It was all like kinda in the background of my slow motion dream.

I walked across the street into the lettuce fields which were mostly mud, and only made it a little ways when I had to stop and started throwing up blood. My stomach felt like I drank two gallons of water at once and I could feel it swishing around in my stomach. That's when things got blurry and I just stood there in one place in the middle of the field trying not to fall. Some friends saw me and ran over to me all laughing and excited and said, "hey cool Kays, no school anymore. Its gone" They saw that I was hurt and asked if I was alright but I just fell over face first in the mud.

They carried me the rest of the way across the field to Andreson road and laid me against the curb. I was awake then and can remember the drive in and fence and the lumber yard all over the street. There was a cop standing in the road directing traffic around all the debris and my friends ran up to him and pointed me out. The cop took one look at me from far away too and just walked right in front of the first car and put up his hands to stop.

I guess he asked the little old lady if she could take me to the hospital. The cop and my friends came over and carried me to the car and put me in the front passenger seat, closed the door and she drove off. All the way to the hospital I kept throwing up blood all over me and her car and I remember her screaming over and over, "oh my God, oh my God." She did it so much and franticly that I yelled at her to shut up. (poor lady,,,sorry) She pulled into St. Joseph emergency parking lot honking her horn all the way to the front door. Then she stopped the car and got out and ran screaming to the door. I opened my door and tried to get out on my own but couldn't and collapsed to the ground. They came out and got me on a wheeled bed and into the hospital I went.

I ended up dislocating my shoulder and breaking all of my ribs and one of my ribs broke so bad that it stuck into my kidney. Hmmmm, that explains the blood. By then I didn't even know who I was and couldn't even give them my name when they asked.

Meanwhile,,,, my dad was working at Lucky Lager and heard about the tornado wiping out the school. He left work to go and look for me. He says even then when he got to the school yard and was looking all over that things where still flying around. Then believe it or not he found some kids that knew me and they told him they thought I was dead. He looked and looked and then went home and him and my mother started calling hospitals.

With all the chaos and me not knowing my name and St. Joseph being brand new and just opening they couldn't find me. It wasn't till that evening around six my mom says when a nurse who happened to be a neighbor saw me and recognized me and they called my mom and dad. They got to the hospital at six thirty that evening to see me. That's when the doctors told them that I wasn't going to live that all they could do was keep me out of pain. I was bleeding so bad from the hole on my kidney that they couldn't operate or do anything.After days and days in the hospital my kidney died and just stopped functioning and thus the bleeding stopped.

Well...... I made it and here I am to tell this story. That is my story! And hey, hi to all if you remember me from then.

Robert Kays
Submitted January 23, 2003


I remember the day well. I was in the 5th grade at George C. Marshall School in Mrs. Stores' classroom. She told us to get under our desks. So we all did, but I don't think at the time any of us really knew what was going on.

I lived close to the school. After about an hour or so went by, it seemed like parents came to pick up their kids, and those that lived close to school walked home. Walking home I saw trees and debris in the street, on the lawns, and there was just an eerie feel in the air like something really unusual just happened.

Then getting homeand turning on the news, and seeing all the damage that it caused was unbelievable. I just could not imagine anything like that ever happening here in our hometown of Vancouver, Washington. It was a day I shall never forget.

Michael R.
Submitted May 18, 2003


My house was one of the homes completely destroyed by the tornado.

My family had just moved to Vancouver from West Texas in March of 1972. My mother was thrilled to hear that the Northwest did not have tornados. We were native Texans, we had seen funnel clouds and had some near misses, but had only experienced light wind damage up to that point.

It was a miracle that no one was injured. My mother had just started work that very day at a near by nursing home and my sister was across the street.

Jamie watched from the neighbors window as our home was completely destroyed. There was nothing left of the house and our few surviving possessions were strewn about the neighborhood.

Our house was the only empty one on the street and our house was the only one damaged! What a blessing. The only sad part, other than the loss of all our things, was that we had no insurance. Mom and dad had an appointment with the insurance man for later in the week.

We were new to the neighborhood, but within minutes of the storm, neighbors came out of their homes with boxes and started to pack up what was left of our things. I would like to thank the people who came to our aid and to the land lord who found us a new home to live in.

Kim Evers
Submitted March 3, 2003


While doing a websearch for the infamous tornado of April 5, 1972 (my third birthday at the time), I found your web page.

What a nice job. Thanks for putting it together! I was in Seattle at the time, so was not directly affected by the twister.

However, I'm a dedicated researcher into Northwest weather history, and I have some details of the April 5, 1972 event that you may wish to add to your web page.

From the official [Portland Airport] weather service form MF1-10B for April 5, 1972 a brief writeup included:

"12:55 PST Weather Bureau official en route to the airport observed roofs blowing off boathouses 1 mile west of airport. Storm continued NNE with public report of tornado at 13:08 PST in east Vancouver, WA. Several roofs blown off houses, the front part of a public school blown off, and bowling alley collapsed."

Forms MF1-10A and B for the Portland airport and other nearby stations reveal that strong straight-line winds accompanied the tornado-spawning squall. A peak gust of 63 mph his Portland at 12:52, with peak sustained winds of 48 mph (fastest mile) at 12:53. Salem also suffered a strong hit with a gust to 60 mph at 12:42. The front's impact north of the Clark/Multnomah County area was somewhat diminished, such that maximum gusts were 40 mph at Toledo at 13:32, and Olympia felt a peak gust of 44 mph at 13:41. Save for Toldeo and Salem, lightning was noted near and/or during the period of high winds, sometimes with moderate rain. No official data were being taken at Vancouver in 1972.

The golfball-sized hail reported by one of your contributors is an interesting observation that is the hallmark of tornadic activity. This tornado is a reminder that even us Northwesters need to maintain vigilance when the weather starts to look threatening.

Wolf Read,
Portland, OR
Submitted February 9, 2003


I was in the third grade at the time. We had just come in from our lunch recess and our teacher Miss Priel was reading us of all things "The wizard of oz"!

I never realized the irony of that until years later. Strange. I will never forget. Even to this day there are certain things that will trigger the memory.

Like the strong smell of tar on a rainy day. I have a lot more memories of that day but I won't put them down now but maybe I'll come back sometime.

Carolyn Woltman
Submitted July 20, 2002


I was in the third grade at the time. We had just come in from our lunch recess and our teacher Miss Priel was reading us of all things "The wizard of oz"!

I never realized the irony of that until years later. Strange. I will never forget. Even to this day there are certain things that will trigger the memory.

Like the strong smell of tar on a rainy day. I have a lot more memories of that day but I won't put them down now but maybe I'll come back sometime.

Carolyn Woltman
Submitted July 20, 2002


I believe I still have the newspaper pictures of it even.

I was in the ninth grade at McLoughlin Junior High and remember being in class when it came through.The classroom windows opened into the room along the bottom of the windows.

When the golfball size hail started coming down and the tornado was going by, it created such a vacuum that it sucked all the windows closed.

The dentist office next to the school was demolished, the old Renfro drive-in screen was destroyed but not the sign which somebody cleverly put up "Gone With The Wind".

My boyfriend at the time, now husband [Jim Kalz] drove up as soon as he could to "rescue" me and took me home.

Debra Kalz
Submitted July 9, 2002


My name is Aaron Bartel. I was in kindergarden at Peter S. Ogden in 1972. I had just gotten home from morning kindergarten class and my mom was making me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch.

We lived on Fourth Plain Road three houses west of the Moose Lodge, when the two of us heard a noise and my mother ran to me and we both got under the dining room table. We had this big picture window in the living room and from under the table we watched the tornado come down Fourth Plain and right across the field in front of our house (which is now Winco) and take down Mr. Nagle's barn and part of his farm.

It was by far the scariest moment in my life (next to getting married) that I can remember.. I hope that this town never has to face that kind of horror again.. thank you

Aaron
Submitted April 7, 2002


I was just in grade school and going to the new Elementary School Martin Luther King.

My best friend's Mom picked us up from school and I remember hearing on the radio that 2 women died at the bowling alley that was totaled from the Tornado hitting it.

When I got home my Mom was not home because it was her bowling day and being only 8 years old I thought it was my Mom who had died. I started walking around up and down my street crying for my Mom. Maybe about 15 or 20 minutes later she pulled up to our house with my Aunt.

Turned out they were bowling at Crosley Lanes and was fine. To this day I am scared of Tornados and couldn't even watch the movie when it came a few years ago.

Tammy Sandstrom
Submitted April 6, 2002


It was a beautiful day in the spring of 1972. I was in the barn building stalls for horses that I was expecting, My stall rental business was doing well, I had my portable radio on and was listening to music on a local station. The music sounded good as I worked. Then all of a sudden the music stopped, I put down my hammer and listened, after what seemed like an eternity, a man's voice came on.

"Ladies and gentlemen, Peter S. Ogden school has collapsed and there were children in it." I froze for no longer than ten seconds waiting to hear more. The announcer went on to say that other buildings came down from a freak wind. I could wait no longer. I ran up to the house, and briefly told my wife what had happened, I ran out the door and got in my pickup, only to discover it wouldn't start, I quickly ran back in the house and grabbed my wife's car keys.

I went back out and started the old car. I jammed the gas peddle to the floor as I let the clutch out, the old car shook and spun its wheels in the dirt driveway. On my way to the school I met many encounters, Telephone poles were lying across the roads, Barns were laying flat, I had to drive into a field to keep going, when I could go no further in the car, I got out and ran. I had to get to that school.

When I got there the first thing I saw was my daughter's class room, Her desk was under a pile of bricks and it was crushed, I threw bricks aside looking for my child. She wasn't there. When I heard the sound of a chain saw in the basement. I started to go down and see what was happening, a fireman stopped me and said, "There is no room for you down there sir."

In this time, I was hoping that one of my sons was alright. I went and looked at his class room, it too was a mess. Then I heard that there were some kids at the old cement pipe factory. I ran two blocks to there. I went in screeming my previous children names, a man told me to control myself you are disturbing the kids, then from another room my son stepped out. Without saying a word I embraced him so hard I could have broken his rib, after he got his breath back he told me what had happened.

When his class room caved in He started running, then he saw a loose horse running down the street, ("Dad I knew that horse was frightened."). A nice lady saw him chasing the horse and took him to the cement pipe factory. Thank you lady!

At the cement pipe factory I was told that some high school kids saw the whole thing and rushed across the field to help their younger counterparts. My son and I ran for four blocks to the high school. We went into the gymnasium and everyone looked like they were in a daze, I saw my oldest son and asked him if he had seen his little sister.

He said he had, and he brought her over from her school to the high school gym. She is up in the grand stands with her teacher, I scanned the stands, Then I saw her, my darling daughter was safe, our eyes met simultaneously, I let go of the one brother's hand and ran up in the grandstand to reach her, we were so happy to see each other that we couldn't talk, we just hugged each other hard and cried.

Then her younger brother came in the stands. She handed him his jacket, "I thought this was all I had left of you," she said. My poor wife had to sit home and wait for any news, she didn't know if her children were dead or alive. There were no telephones working. The pickup was out of order, but we were lucky, our youngest son went to kindergarten at Peter S. Ogden but he was home with the chicken pox that day, and she did not have to see the devastation that I saw.

It was later determined there was a tornado in Vancouver, Wa. There never has been another one before or since. Six people were killed that day, and many more injured. That was the worst day of my life.

Don Fraser
Submitted April 6, 2002


Several members of my family were in that tornado. My two little brothers and my little sister were at Ogden Elementary and another sister at Ft Vancouver High. It was quite a day!

Here is a picture of my little sister after she got out of the hospital. Doesn't that look awful? I'm happy to say she completely recovered!!

Spicer


I have inquired about this tornado because my daughter is now in first grade. That was what grade that I was in when I attended Peter S. Ogden. I remember seeing outside go so dark, then the golf-ball sized hailstones. After that, it happened so quickly. The roof came completely off. We retreated under our desks and then windows blew out, walls started to collapse, we ran to the door, but could not open it. I remember one girl had a big hole in her head. It ended as fast as it began.

We all started walking to some kind of office building and on the way somebody yelled to get down because another one was coming. We all layed down in the mud. False alarm. We then went with the highschoolers to Fort Vancouver High and waited for our family. I remember being one of the last ones there to be recovered by her parents. I wondered if they were dead, but thank God, I was wrong. I finally saw my father and uncle walking towards the school. Now I live in The Dalles, Or. It is windy here all the time. I hate it!!!

Stephanie


My best friend, Sharon, and I were doing our grocery shopping in the Paririe Market, when the tornado struck. We were at the check stand when the lights went out. Sharon had her three children, and I had my daughter Lori, who was 2 and I was pregnant with my son.

After the lights went out, the Clerk and I noticed debris whirling toward us. Within a split second, the roof of the store was peeled off and I scrambled to the floor, trying to get my daughter under me.

The counters between us formed a lean-to of sorts and we were pushed along the floor for several feet. Water pipes overhead had ripped apart with the roof, and when it was over we were in several inches of water, and buried in several feet of rubble. Lori and I climb out, found Sharon and her kids, and the only thing we wanted was to get out of there.

The store was completely destroyed. My car had all the windows totally blown out of it. there was no way we could drive it with the small children. Power lines were down all around us.

The rescue workers and police took all of us to the bank at the front corner of the parking lot. Everyone was wonderful to us and so helpful. After several hours, when it was safe, Two of the banks employees gave us a ride home.

It has been almost 30 years, and I still am afraid of storms. And often I think of the people who lost their lives, and how very lucky we all were to not have more serious injuries. It was a miracle, which there are no answers to.

anonymous


I was driving on Andresen from Mill Plain heading toward Fourth Plain. Just as I got to 18th St. I suddenly changed my mind and decided to go west on 18th St. instead of Fourth Plain. As I was heading west I suddenly saw the tall Evergreen trees on my left bend over completely on their sides so they were parallel with the ground. I turned to my 16 month old daughter in shock and said, "What is going on?"

When we got to the intersection of Fourth Plain and Grand Blvd. we couldn't get through because every emergency vehicle in Clark County converged there on the way to the disaster area.

When I learned what had happened and put it all together I realized that the tornado was going over me causing those trees to bend, and I would have been at the intersection when and where the tornado hit and destroyed Waremart if I had not suddenly turned and taken 18th St.

Because I was seeking the Lord at that time in my life, I believe that was His direct intervention and protection in both my daughter's and my life for which I am so very grateful. I was very grieved for the families who lost loved ones.

Kathy Stephens


I was in class at the time, McLouglin Junior High School, we heard the noise outside and I remember everyone running for the windows to look at part of the Church roof across the street coming off.

Just about the same moment that we are all glued to the windows, the teachers came yelling down the halls to get away from the window and get down. I really didn't worry until that moment, but the panic in their voices told us this just wasn't a wind storm.

My sister was attending Fort Vancouver High School at the time and when she came home exhausted after the tornado pasted she was very upset. She told us about her friends and her running to the elementary school that had collapsed. They helped pull kids out and bring them to safety.

Diane Gibson