Do We Have Hurricanes In the Pacific Northwest? Yes We Do!

By the time people in the Pacific Northwest woke up on Friday, October 12, 1962, “Freda” had been on the move for some time.  She formed as a typhoon 500 miles west of Wake Island in the central Pacific Ocean a week earlier.  As she moved north into colder waters  and interacted with the jet stream, Freda became an extratropical cyclone.  Freda arrived in Northern California as winds pushed her ashore, delaying some games in the 1962 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the New York Yankees.

Freda officially became “Hurricane Freda” when she touched landfall in the United States.  Hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons are basically the same types of storms, often labelled differently by their windspeed .  Storms in the Atlantic Ocean are usually identified as hurricanes with the storms in the Pacific Ocean called typhoons or cyclones

Now on land, Hurricane Freda hooked straight north as she moved into southwest Oregon, bringing a pressure which would be equivalent to a Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale.  As Friday, October 12th dawned, few in the Pacific Northwest were aware of what the day would bring.  Oregon’s Cape Blanco soon measured wind gusts at 145 miles per hour while the Naselle Radar Station in the Willapa Hills of southwest Washington logged winds of 160 miles per hour.  Wind gusts in Portland, Oregon reached 116 mph, while Olympia officially measured 88mph.

Those living in eastern Washington experienced damaging high winds as well.  When the roof blew off a neighbor’s house where I lived in the town of Sunnyside in the Yakima Valley, my mother hustled me into a basement room with no windows for the next few hour.  Damaging winds reached as far inland as Spokane.

At lease 46 fatalities were attributed to Freda, more than for any other Pacific Northwest weather event.  Injuries went into the hundreds.  In less than 12 hours, more than 11 billion board feet of timber was blown down in northern California, Oregon and Washington.  Estimates put the dollar damage at over $2 Billion in today’s dollars.  The Metropolitan Life Insurance company named the Columbus Day Storm the nation’s worst natural disaster of 1962 as Hurricane Freda was labelled as the “most powerful extratropical cyclone recorded in the U.S in the 20th century.”

Few places in the United States are immune to natural disasters and the Pacific Northwest is no exception.  While wildfires, floods and earthquakes occur more often, we manage to get a volcanic eruption and even the occasional hurricane from time to time.  The next time someone tells you we don’t get hurricanes in the Pacific Northwest, relate the story of Hurricane Freda.  For a little kid hustled into the basement after witnessing the neighbor’s roof blown off their house, it was an experience never to be forgotten.

Washington State “Salmon Run” Contest

John, AD6KT, working the Washington State Salmon Run contest

Amateur radio is a diverse and interesting hobby.  After all, we’re called “Hams” for a reason.  Some amateur radio operators simply love to chat with other like minded individuals across town on a simple hand held radio.  Others enjoy public service and join Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) teams and support their communities.  And then there are the hundreds of special events and contests on the air waves seemingly every weekend.

One type of contest that has many followers are the State QSO Parties.  Each state holds their particular QSO party on some weekend in the year and the object is to contact as many hams from that particular state as possible and/or contact as many counties as are available within each state.  Washington State named its QSO party “Salmon Run” just because we’re a little different.

Centralia ARES, as a group, has not participated in any state QSO parties in the past, just concentrating on the training and exercises we need to support emergency services in the area, but this year was different.  About one third of our ARES team is new to amateur radio and simply don’t have the experience necessary to feel comfortable giving a contest a try.  They are, however, interested in learning all about HF communications.  We decided to use the Washington Salmon Run to let these team members get a little experience using our on board HF system in our two communication vans.  This system uses an Icom IC-7300 HF radio, external antenna tuner and the Tarheel screwdriver antenna system.  We also used the contest to test several NVIS antennas, carried for backup on the vans.  Unfortunately, we had to limit our on-air time to four hours on Saturday morning.  Still, we had good weather, a fun group of hams and donuts.  You can’t go wrong with donuts.

By the end of the morning, everyone had a couple of contest contacts under their belts and knew much more about the IC-7300 HF radio system.  All the antennas worked well with the NVIS antennas a little better than the Tarheel. When the donuts were gone, we packed up for the day and headed home.  What a great day working with everything Amateur Radio stands for.  Maybe we’ll try another contest a little later in the fall.  Thanks to all those who helped set up the vans, raise the antennas, make the contacts and eat… well, you know.


Warm August Nights

Making contacts on 40 meters.

Approximately one third of our team members are new to High Frequency communications. Moving from VHF HT’s to HF with all the confusing radios, tuners, and larger antennas takes some practice – especially on our mobile communications vehicles which are constantly in use. Working together always makes the job easier.

We all love those warm, pleasant August evenings when memories of the Pacific Northwest’s rain are far away. The ARES team used just such a warm evening to practice setting up our communication van’s long wire backup antenna. Each communications van depends, for HF comms, on the Icom IC-7300 HF radio, tuner and Tarheel antenna mounted in each vehicle, but we also believe in redundancy. As a backup, each vehicle carries an all band, long wire antenna. While the Tarheel requires just a push of a button, the long wire needs several willing volunteers to erect it. Using on board military grade fiberglass sectional poles as the mast, the long wire must be attached to the poles, raised and tied off, but this is great practice for all.

When the antenna is up, oriented correctly and tied off, we get an opportunity to spend some time introducing the HF equipment to team members unfamiliar with the system. The IC-7300 is a great radio but still requires some time to get used to its many settings. Before long, however, voices were coming in over the 40 meter band and we were making contacts.

Washington State’s QSO Party – called “Salmon Run” – is scheduled for September 21st and 22nd. This event is a great opportunity for hams new to HF to experience contesting and Lewis County has fewer hams than many other counties in our state. The team is setting up several practice dates before Salmon Run so that we can be ready. At least some of those practice days will probably be warm August evenings. All too soon, the rains will reappear. Look for us during “Salmon Run” in September and give us a call.