Off Beat: Memories of tornado stirred by anniversary coverage

By Paul Suarez and Tom Vogt

Published:

 

‘I saw lots of kids with red hands and red faces and thought that they must have been finger-painting when the storm hit, but then realized it was blood, not paint.”

April (Preston) Braley’s memories of Vancouver’s fatal tornado seem as vivid as they were on April 5, 1972.

She’s one of the readers who contacted us after our 40th anniversary coverage, sharing memories that didn’t make it into print. A lot of them deserve a wider audience, particularly the role played by rescuers.

“It was miraculous that all the students from Fort Vancouver High School actually watched the tornado hit our school and immediately ran over to assist and rescue all of the people in Peter S. Ogden. … No one from PSO died that day, and I believe it is largely because of the quick response of FVHS kids (where I graduated from),” Braley said in an email.

Teachable moment

“I was a teacher at Walnut Grove Elementary School when the tornado ended in the neighborhood just east of the school’s playground,” Sandy Hayslip wrote.

“Homes of our students were damaged, a fact which hasn’t been mentioned to my knowledge in the current newspaper stories.

“I used to share the story of the tornado with my own fourth-grade students when doing a weather unit. There continues to be a lot of disbelief that it could have ever happened here.”

Old family farm

“In 1972, my family was safely located in Hockinson, but we were still all shell-shocked when we heard about the Waremart collapse,” Carol Taylor wrote.

“In the fall of 1970, my great-grandmother, Gladys Lippert, sold her berry farm where Waremart (and now Value Village) was located. My dad, mom, sister and I all lived on her berry farm … just 18 months prior to the tornado.”

Refuge for injured

Jean Marks worked at a place often overlooked in tornado accounts: Northwest Bank, between Sunrise Lanes and Waremart.

“The lobby of the bank became a shelter,” she said.

People hurt at Waremart were loaded onto big, flat, buy-in-bulk wooden shopping carts and rolled across the street to the bank.

“We probably had 25 or 30 people there,” she said in a phone call. “We tried to provide some comfort under dire circumstances.”

Off Beat lets members of The Columbian news team step back from our newspaper beats to write the story behind the story, fill in the story or just tell a story.