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Columbus Day Storm anniversary

Pacific Northwest Bell lineman Cotton Alter finds a convenient seat splicing wire in the aftermath of the Columbus Day storm. The toilet once sat in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Jessie Harris, whose home at 2038 40th Ave. in Longview was blown apart with the couple inside. They weren't killed, but only one wall of the house was left standing.

I remember very vividly what I was doing on that scary evening. I’d hauled a load of cattle home from Clatskanie and as I began to unload them I noticed the wind was really picking up, almost to the point of being frightening. My wife, Joanne, who was five months pregnant and our three small kids were not yet home from Longview, so of course I was concerned about the possibility of a tree across the road which would delay them. That was the old crooked highway, not the one we use today. By the time I got the cows unloaded it had turned into a real storm and I could hear trees crashing down on the hill behind our little farm. I parked the truck and went in the house to await my family, knowing fair well that they had about a twelve mile trip to get home from Longview.

As I stood at the kitchen window watching and worrying I saw one of the most comical sights that I’ve ever seen. We had a plum tree in our backyard that a little Bantam rooster liked to roost in. As it was nearly dark, I noticed that he’d already taken his spot on a limb in the plum tree. About that time and while I was watching, a real strong gust of wind came through. The strongest one yet! Well that little rooster couldn’t hold on against the 50 or 60 or 70 mph wind. I watched him go clear across our backyard at about 8-9 feet elevation BACKWARDS. His pretty tail feathers were wrapped up around his head and his little bare butt was sticking right out in the open. Where he finally landed I do not know, but it was a very long time before he ever roosted in that tree again. I’d love to have a video of that.

I ended up grabbing a chain saw and started down the county road in my pickup to find my family. I had to cut my way though many dozens of trees to eventually find them safe and sound. Several neighbors were cutting out the roadway ahead of them so they could get home when I finally met them. My wife and our three kids had taken refuge in the Hudson School until the wind died down a bit when neighbors cut a way for them to get home. Our electricity was out for nearly two weeks and the next morning I was astounded to see hundreds of acres of timber behind our house all blown down and all in the same direction. The wind was entirely from the south. Some places there the trees were stacked up 9-10 feet deep and like I said, there was hundreds of acres like that. Salvage started immediately.

Another thing that I remember of that storm was the way the wind had tipped the entire baseball stadium at Hudson Park over backwards. Guess it and that little rooster had something in common that evening.

— Duane Bernard, Rainier

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