WA Secretary of State Blogs

Natural Disasters in Washington State

From the desk of Kim Smeenk

Fires, volcanoes, and floods, oh my!

The Pacific Northwest has seen its share of natural disasters over the years. Forest fires, windstorms like the Columbus Day Storm in 1962, and the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980.    The Washington State Library has books, magazine articles, government reports and documentaries about these events.

If you want to read what the newspapers were reporting as the disasters were unfolding, you can find those articles in the State Library’s microfilm newspaper collection.  If you can’t make it to our library, don’t worry, we lend out many of our books, and all of our microfilmed newspapers, to people all over the world through interlibrary loan.
Contact us if you have questions.
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In 1963 Ellis Lucia published The big blow; the story of the Pacific Northwest’s Columbus Day storm, about the Pacific Northwest windstorm that killed over  40 people, and caused millions of dollars in damages.

The following year, Dorothy Franklin published West Coast Disaster, Columbus Day, 1962


The great Forks fire, by Mavis Amundson, describes the fast moving forest fire
on the Olympic Peninsula in September 1951 that threatened to destroy the town of  Forks, WA.


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Olympia Daily Recorder August 13 1910


1910 was another year of massive forest fires in the Pacific NorthwestThere were more than 1,700 fires that burned three million acres, and killed over 80 people.

Year of Fires by Stephen J. Pyne, and The Big Burn by Don Miller are just a few of the books we have about these fires.

For official state reports from that time, you can come to the State Library to read the 100+ year old annual Report(s) of the State Forester and Fire Warden





The most famous natural disaster in Washington State was the eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980.  These are just a few of the titles the State Library has about this event.

mt st helens

Citizen response to volcanic eruptions: the case of Mt. St. Helens by Ronald W. Perry and Marjorie R. Greene.

Echoes of fury : the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens and the lives it changed forever / Frank Parchman

Mt. St. Helens : surviving the stone wind by Catherine Hickson

Portrait of Mount St. Helens : a changing landscape / essays by Chuck Williams and Stuart Warren

The eruption of Mount St. Helens [videorecording] DVD

Mt. St. Helens [videorecording] : back from the dead DVD

You can find all of these items and more in our online catalog.

If you have questions about how to borrow any of our books or newspaper microfilm, contact us at [email protected].


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