One Of The Worst Disasters In U.S. History Happened Right Here In Oregon
When it comes to natural disasters, Oregon does not typically make the national news. We are at low risk of ever finding ourselves in the eye of a storm, be it a hurricane or tornado. However, there are still some disasters in our state’s history that have wreaked massive destruction. Back in 1948, Oregon’s second largest city disappeared in a single day.
The spring of 1948 saw some unusual weather patterns with high levels of precipitation in the Pacific Northwest. As the weather warmed up at the end of May, rapid snowmelt occurred. This set the stage for floods all along the Columbia River.
The city of Vanport was located near the Columbia River at the present site of Delta Park in North Portland. At the time, Vanport was the largest housing project in the entire country with 40,000 residents.
As the Columbia began to rise rapidly, sand-bagging and temporary dikes were constructed.
Sadly, these efforts did not stop the Columbia River from breaking through a railroad berm on the westside of Vanport on May 30. Water roared through the break, leaving a wake of destruction in its path.
Within a couple hours, cars were overturned, buildings were knocked down, and houses were torn from their foundations. Vanport was completely destroyed.
Residents were evacuated and boats came to rescue people who were stranded on roofs.
At the Jantzen Beach amusement park, the roller coaster was submerged in water. While the park survived the flooding, it lost many of its patrons and attendance never reached pre-flood levels.
The next day, National Guard troops arrived on the scene to help look for casualties. Their initial search did not find any victims.
In the end, it is believed that the Vanport flood took 15 lives. There may have been more victims whose bodies were never located.
To see more of the historic Columbia River Floods of 1948, watch this video uploaded by YouTube user NWSPortland: VIDEO
For another glimpse into Oregon’s past, check out our previous article:
A Terrifying, Deadly Storm Struck Oregon In 1962 And No One Saw It Coming.
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