I am really looking forward to attending the next Chuckanut Radio Hour on Tuesday, May 21, at Whatcom Community College’s Heiner Theater, 237 W. Kellogg Road.
The guest author is Olympia’s John Dodge, who’ll talk about his new book, “A Deadly Wind: The 1962 Columbus Day Storm,” published by Oregon State University Press.
First, a couple of disclaimers: I grew up in Albany, Oregon, and I was in junior high school when the storm hit! I remember walking the mile home from school as the storm toppled trees and we had trouble walking upright in the wind!
In addition, I’m a 1971 graduate of Oregon State, and in addition to writing for Entertainment News NW, I’m a reference librarian at Whatcom Community College.
I asked John a few questions about his writing of the book, which is a real page-turner, full of anecdotes from survivors and relatives of survivors of the storm, and chock-full of meteorological data about the storm as it traveled across the West Coast.
It took John from October 2012 to October 2018 to publish the book because he had a full-time job at The Olympian the first three years. The book went through three major revisions and was ready in early 2018, he says, but was held for release by Oregon State University Press until the fall of 2018 to coincide with the storm’s anniversary.
He made contacts with storm survivors through sources he cultivated writing newspaper stories about the storm at its 25th , 40th, and 50th anniversaries, newspaper accounts, personal outreach, previous publications of storm survivor stories compiled by historical societies, websites of retired Navy, Air Force and U.S. Forest Service employees, online inquiries, and trips to communities along the path of the storm.
Among those he interviewed: Bellingham journalist Floyd McKay; longtime journalist and best-selling novelist Jim Lynch, former Seattle Times environmental reporter and National Geographic staff writer Craig Welch; former journalist and author/historian R. Gregory Nokes; and his mentor, John Hughes, Washington state historian and former editor and publisher of The Daily World in Aberdeen.
What did he learn as he wrote the book?
“The lessons learned were many. For instance, the storm struck at a time when weather forecasting was in its infancy, so there was very little advance warning. The widespread power outages highlighted the importance of emergency generators and transistor radios, which were just reaching mass market production at the time. The region began a slow pivot from Civil Defense to protect against Soviet nuclear strikes to natural disaster emergency management.
The storm gave birth to the Asian log export market because of the need to find markets for the 15 billion board-feet of down timber. The multi-billion dollar wine industry in Oregon also owes its origin to the storm in an indirect way. Many of the fruit and nut orchards flattened by the winds in the Willamette Valley became inexpensive farmland for the Oregon wine pioneers of the mid-to-late 1960s.”
John lived in Bellingham from 1969 to 1972, graduated from Western Washington University in 1970, lived in the Fairhaven district and contributed articles to the Northwest Passage and even hosted novelist Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters for an impromptu conversation in a garden he grew on a vacant lot in Fairhaven in 1970 and 1971. He also worked part-time at a fledgling bookstore in Fairhaven called Fairhaven Books.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, with music by Tim McHugh and his Family Band. Tickets for the Chuckanut Radio Hour are $5 and are available at Village Books and BrownPaperTickets.com. Receive a free ticket with purchase of A Deadly Wind” at Village Books.