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Columbus Day Storm anniversary

Damage was heavy at the Kelso Airport. Here two planes were thrown together in a pile.

I was in Aberdeen on the Kelso High School football team, preparing to meet Aberdeen in a football game that the Hilanders were significant underdogs to the nationally ranked Bobcats. The coaches had done a good job convincing us we were going to beat these guys and all the girls would swoon over our spectacular victory.

We were suited up in the locker room and ready to head out for pre-game warm ups. We went yelling out onto the field sure that we were striking fear into our victims’ hearts, only to find it was raining -- and raining hard! We went through the usual situps and pushups in ankle-deep water on the field, thinking this coastal rain squall would pass, but it just kept raining harder.

Finally, it was game time. We won the toss and were ready to receive the kickoff. I remember not being able to see the kicker too well through the torrents of rain.

The whistle blew, the kicker kicked, and here came the ball. When it reached the halfway point to us, and at the top of its arc, a huge gust of wind blew it 90 degrees to the right and it landed several rows up in the grandstands! Then, as we all stood with our mouths open, the field light poles began swaying violently and, with a loud pop, every light in Aberdeen went out!

We groped our way to the locker room and a coach lit a few towels on fire on the concrete floor for light. We changed, loaded on the bus and headed home -- thinking we had experienced a coastal windstorm and that Divine Providence had saved the Bobcats from a crushing defeat.

We spent the next several hours making our way home, stopping many times to clear the road of blown-down branches and trees. It was lucky there were 40 or 50 strong backs on the trip or we wouldn’t have made it. It was a surreal trip, passing town after town in complete darkness and arriving in Kelso about midnight to dozens of very anxious parents who had no idea if we were OK. Of course, the next day told the real tale of the unbelievable destruction caused by the Columbus Day Storm in 1962.

As a footnote, a few weeks later, Aberdeen came to Kelso for the makeup game. As it turned out, it wasn’t the Bobcats that the storm saved from an embarrassing loss. Final score: 33-0 Aberdeen.

— Tom Radcliffe, Kelso

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