Weather forecasters say Hawaii lies in the path of two large storms blowing its way today, Hurricane Iselle and Tropical Storm Julio.
The term “hurricane” confuses me. I know that wind speeds create the distinction between hurricanes and tropical storms. But I thought the largest windstorms are called hurricanes in the Atlantic and typhoons in the Pacific, where Hawaii lies.
A quick peek at a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website set me straight.
In the Atlantic and Northeast Pacific, they’re called hurricanes. The same storm in the Northwest Pacific is called a typhoon. And we call those storms cyclones in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean.
Apparently, Hawaii lies in the Pacific’s hurricane neighborhood.
Did you know that a hurricane blasted Oregon and Washington 52 years ago? True!
What we call the Columbus Day Storm of October 12, 1962, “was probably the most powerful non-tropical cyclone to strike the lower 48 states during the past century,” local weather expert Cliff Mass wrote in his blog.
The Columbus Day Storm started as Typhoon Freda in the western Pacific. It weakened as it blew northeast, then south, but it picked up energy in a large Pacific trough and turned north toward the West Coast. It hit land in northern California and blasted Oregon before sweeping into Washington.
Winds hit 145 mph at Cape Blanco, Ore., 138 mph at Newport, and 116 in Portland, well above the threshold of 75 mph that defines a hurricane. Renton saw 100 mph. The 1962 storm took nearly 50 lives and dropped more than 15 billion board feet of timber.
So, call it what you will – hurricane, typhoon, or cyclone – we had one here in the Northwest.