Disaster hits home

Second story of family’s house was destroyed by a tornado four decades ago

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

Published:

 

When David Barnard was a Fort Vancouver High School student 40 years ago, he would look up at the crest of the hill looming over the campus and see the second-story roof of his home above the trees.

Until April 5, 1972.

That’s the day the strongest tornado to hit Washington and Oregon rearranged a lot of the local landscape. After the tornado demolished Peter S. Ogden Elementary School, just east of the high school, Barnard was one of the Fort students who ran over to help rescue grade-schoolers from the rubble.

As his cousin Patti Brockman recalled a few days ago, David happened to glance up at the skyline to the south, along the track of the tornado.

‘He said, ‘My house is gone!’”

It turned out that Bob and Betty Barnard’s split-level home wasn’t gone, but it sure was shortened. The tornado had peeled the roof right off the second story of the house, and knocked most of the walls and contents of the upstairs bedrooms into the ground-level garage.

Bob Barnard, who still lives at the home on Montana Lane, said he was at work when the storm hit.

“One of our boys called me at work and told me what to expect,” he said. “That’s a hell of a thing to expect.”

The Barnards’ home played a prominent role in The Columbian’s storm coverage. The day after the tornado, we ran a photograph of Betty Barnard in her backyard, looking for material to salvage.

One year later, our anniversary coverage included a photograph of the Barnards’ rebuilt home.

Bob Barnard, whose wife died in 2008, said the family was able to live in an undamaged portion of the house while it was being rebuilt.

There did turn out to be one little quirk in the project. When the house was originally built, the ridgeline of the second-story roof ran north-south.

After the reconstruction, that roof ran east-west, matching the undamaged portion of the house.

“He rotated the roof 90 degrees,” Barnard said.

More tornado memories ...

“We had a 1970 Chevy, and a piece of wood the size of a pencil penetrated the fender. It didn’t dent it, it just went right through the steel.”

— Loren Hascall, who was a Fort Vancouver High School senior in 1972.

“It was the worst tragedy I’ve ever dealt with. The mother and her kids were buried in the same casket. I talked to my dad, who was a great Bible student, and he referred me to an Old Testament verse about suffering that is not deserved.”

— The Rev. Al Fischer, who officiated at the funeral for Luila Clevidence and her two children, who were killed in the Waremart collapse.

“Name tags were twisted around the arms of the victims. Frantic parents rushed back and forth — some with injured children at both hospitals.”

— From The Columbian’s coverage of emergency care at what were then St. Joseph Community Hospital and Vancouver Memorial Hospital