Vancouver, WA Tornado Strikes City, Apr 1972
STRONG WINDS KILL 6, IN VANCOUVER, WASH.
Vancouver, Wash. (AP) -- Six persons were crushed to death Wednesday in a sudden tornado-like storm which tore through Vancouver. Five of the victims died at the Waremart Grocery Store.
"I was shopping in Waremart when the lights went out. That was the only warning," said Army Spec. 4 THOMAS FULLER, 25, Vancouver. "I thought we had been hit by lightning."
"Then all hell broke loose. The roof began to peel off and stuff began to fall all around."
"I screamed for everyone to run to the rear of the building," FULLER said. "But the 20 or 30 shoppers in the store all ran for the front door. That's when the front wall blew down, trapping a half dozen people underneath."
JEANNIE ADAMS, 22, Vancouver, and her 2-year-old son, BRIAN KEITH, were crushed under the front wall inside the store. LUILA CLEVIDENCE, 25, Vancouver, her 5-year-old daughter, DENISE, and her week-old son died when falling debris flattened their car in the store's parking lot.
A spokesman for the National Weather Service in Portland described it as a "thunderstorm that a Weather officials refused to call the storm a tornado, although several eyewitnesses referred to it as such.
A spokesman for the National Weather Service in Portland described it as a "thunderstorm that suddenly went berserk."
Another spokesman said a meterologist would visit the site today to determine wind velocity. An official definition of a tornado includes wind speeds of 100-300 m.p.h.
JAMES D. WAKEFIELD, meteorologist for the Forecast Office, said, "To do the damage done in Vancouver, those winds had to be moving 100 to 125 miles an hour."
An observer, STEVE MAPHET of Vancouver, said, "As a kid in Oklahoma, I saw a tornado and that's what that was this afternoon. I was sleeping when I heard all the hail. When I looked out my back window, a tornado leveled two homes behind my house, and damaged several others."
PAUL PEARCE, 16, a junior at Fort Vancouver High School, about 500 yards from the demolished Peter S. Ogden Elementary School -- said he noticed a large, swirling cloud of dust in which huge timbers floated lazilly around.
"It sort of swung a wide arc around some houses," PEARCE said, "then drifted into the school."
More than 40 children and teachers were injured when the windstorm lifted the roof and blew down the walls of the school.
A newspaper reporter said as soon as the school was hit, Fort Vancouver students rushed to the scene and began helping the injured.
"Some of the students pulled portions of wall off some of the injured," the reporter said.
GERRY THORP, 53, owner of the Sunrise Bowling Lanes, lay on a stretcher in St. Joseph Community Hospital and told of fear knotting in his stomach when the lights flickered out and a strong wind crashed through the front door.
An employe of the bowling alley, EARL DALBY, said he ran to try and get the children out of the building's nursery.
"I turned around and saw one woman under the wall. We couldn't get her out. The worst part was turning around and seeing that woman -- there was nothing we could do," DALBY said.
The babysitter in the nursery, SHARON GRASER, 30, Vancouver, was killed.
One mother who rescued her daughter from the nursery said, "Someone handed me a little boy. Someone told me he was the babysitter's son. He was crying for his mother. I don't know what to do."
Daily Sitka Sentinel Alaska 1972-04-06