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January-February 2011

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Oregon's Twisted History

Oregon is far more noted for Pacific windstorms that buffet the coastal and inland areas of this Pacific Northwest state than for massive thunderstorms that produce severe weather, including tornadoes. Yet many destructive storms that fall into the category of tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, and squall lines have made their appearance in the state.

During the late 1800s and into the early 20th century, the Weather Bureau, now known as the National Weather Service, had reservations regarding the reporting of tornadoes. Indeed, there was a period of time when the use in a weather forecast of the word “tornado” was forbidden. Reports of tornadoes suffered during this period, and this may have been a factor in the statement that appeared in the 1922 Annual Meteorological Summary with Comparative Climate for Portland, Oregon: “Tornadoes are unknown.”

GEORGE MILLER served as Area Manager/Meteorologist in Charge of the National Weather Service Forecast office in Portland for 12 years. He has authored two books on Pacific Northwest weather and continues his research into historic weather events in the Pacific Northwest.

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