The National Weather Service in Washington reviewed the major weather events of the 1900s.

They ranked in the top 15 - taking into account: The impact on people, property, and the economy.

We give you the seven biggest Washington weather events of the 1900s.


7 - A Rare Occurrence of Tornados Terrorized WA Residence in April of 1972

Washington, not known for tornado activity, saw two F3 tornadoes touch down—one in the Clark County city of Vancouver and one just west of Spokane. An F2-sized tornado struck in the upper northeast corner of the state in rural Stevens County. 1972 marked the only year on record that Washington led the nation in tornado deaths and injuries (6 deaths and 300 injured.) 

6 - The Great Wellington Avalance Disaster

After a massive blizzard gripped the Central Cascades, two trains were delayed due to the crew's unable to clear tracks near the summit of Stevens Pass. One of the trains, in the mountain town of Wellington rested at the mouth of the newly built Cascade Train Tunnel.

Wellington Avalanche of 1910
Wellington Avalanche Disaster of 1910 -Credit: Wikipedia Commons


During the early hours of March 1, 1910 - a thunderstorm caused a heavy layer of snow,  to slide - throwing the sleeping train down a steep ravine, with 96 lives lost in its horrific destruction.  Note: Highway 2 across Stevens Pass was completed in 1925. Wellington changed its name to Tye after the disaster. 

5 - Mt. St. Helens Blew its Top

Mt. St. Helens was a picturesque American version of Japan’s Mt. Fuji. It stood proudly at 9,677 feet. At 8:32 am on May 18th, 1980 the mountain came to life and gushed 1.4 billion pounds of ash over Eastern Washington, Northern Idaho, and Montana. 

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Mt. St. Helens, after losing a third of its former self, now only boasts a summit of 8,363 feet. 

4 - The Horrific Late Summer Forest Fires of 1910

On August 20th, 1910, Hurricane-force winds caused wildfires, already ablaze in the Pacific Northwest to burn like a blowtorch. “The Big Blowup” caused Three million acres of timber to burn.

President William Howard Taft deployed 4,000 troops to help the overwhelmed civilian firefighters. Smoke from this historic blaze made its way to the Atlantic coast.

3 - The Great Blizzard of 1950

Blizzard of 1950 - Seattle
Blizzard of 1950 hits Seattle CREDIT:
MOHAI (Museum of History and Industry)

The winter of 1949-50 was the coldest on record.

On January 13th, 1950. Eastern Washington, North Idaho, and parts of Oregon were covered in up to 50 inches.

Temps dipped down to negative 20 in some places. Seattle occasionally gets snow - but this system dumped over 21 inches.

2 - The Snowmelt Flood of 1948

A sudden snowmelt created the largest recorded flooding - from Northern Idaho to Eastern Washington. The flood began in late May of 1948 and lasted nearly 4 weeks.

The image of Rock Island Dam, downstream from Wenatchee, during this aggressive snowmelt is mind-numbing.

Rock Island Dam - 1948
Rock Island Dam - 1948 (Canva)

During the snowmelt peak, the Methow River at Pateros WA, was over 12 feet above flood stage. The Columbia River was bloated here in North Central Washington and all points south - to the Pacific.

1 - The Columbus Day Wind Storm

The date was October 12th, 1962. The fierce storm has the distinction of being the strongest known widespread non-hurricane wind storm in the continental US. 

A large chunk of the Pacific Coast bore the brunt - as it wreaked havoc from Northern California to British Columbia.

46 people lost their lives.

There have been some wicked windstorms in my lifetime - but never one with gusts up to 150 miles per hour (recorded in Naselle.) 

From the Townsquare Media Archive Room, Rik Mikals takes another perspective on Washington Disasters - going beyond the 20th Century. 

The 7 Worst Natural Disasters in the History of Washington State

Washington State is a great place to live but occasionally the state has been struck with some earth-shattering natural disasters. Here are 7 disasters that really wrecked the state.

Gallery Credit: Rik Mikals

LOOK: The most expensive weather and climate disasters in recent decades

Stacker ranked the most expensive climate disasters by the billions since 1980 by the total cost of all damages, adjusted for inflation, based on 2021 data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The list starts with Hurricane Sally, which caused $7.3 billion in damages in 2020, and ends with a devastating 2005 hurricane that caused $170 billion in damage and killed at least 1,833 people. Keep reading to discover the 50 of the most expensive climate disasters in recent decades in the U.S.

Gallery Credit: KATELYN LEBOFF

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