Photos from Manuscripts, Archives, Special Collections, WSU Libraries
The tornado that shook the Vancouver area on Jan. 10 was far from a first in Washington.
Although the state’s weather is known more for rainstorms or earthquakes, tornados have occurred in the past. Here are just a fewnotable occurrences:
Pullman 1920
A tornado hit the Palouse in July, causing damage of at least $100,000, according to a July 16 issue of the Pullman Herald newspaper. Considering the cost to rent a house was $35 per month at the time, the damage was considerable.
(Over Colton, Wash. Photo by Bekcy Phillips, WSU Today)
The tornado was 400 feet wide as it plowed through College Farm on the WSC campus, and it caused two injuries. It also caused controversy as to its classification.
“There is a wide divergence of opinion as to whether the Tuesday evening storm is a cyclone, tornado or a violent wind storm,” said the Pullman Herald.
(1920 storm through Pullman, College Farm)
The funnel shape and whirling motion of the cloud allowed some to classify it as a cyclone, whereas others insisted it was a tornado because it carried objects in a forward motion parallel with the ground. Whatever it was, it is classified as a piece of WSU history.
Vancouver 1972
A tornado that shook the Vancouver and Portland areas in April 1972 is classified as the deadliest in Washington history.
It created a nine-mile path of damage across the east side of Vancouver, according to the National Weather Service. Six people died and 300 were injured. There was $5-$6 million in property damage to Washington.
May 1997
May 31, 1997, was a day for the record books, with six tornados touching down in Washington. The previous record had been four tornadoes in 1989 for the entire year, according to the National Weather Service.
(1920 College Farm storm killed dozens of chickens)
Four tornados classified as F1 — which means they had wind speeds between 73 and 112 mph and caused moderate damage — hit Stevens and Spokane counties. Tornados also touched down in Vancouver, Tacoma and Clarkston.