Historically Short-lived Plumes


This is the awesome pampas grass we planted years ago in our backyard. I think I’ve mentioned that my sister was married in 1975 on the beach in front of an amazing growth of pampas grass, which is why I’ve always loved it.

For several years now, we’ve had a lot of plumes each September. They are so stately and beautiful. And they sway so nicely in the breeze.

The problem is that September breezes almost always give way to October winds. And storms. October seems to be one of the more volatile months here in the Pacific Northwest. Nothing like some parts of the country have, and there have certainly been some horrible weather issues these past couple years. For the sake of this blog, though, I’ll focus on here. Where I live, in the shadow of an awesome mountain.

So I’d say we lose half the plumes to windstorms by the end of October most years. The winds aren’t generally deadly, but we get an uptick in wind speed and in the amount of storms around here in October.

The most notable storm around here is the Columbus Day storm of 1962. (Yes, I was around for this. I hate dating myself that way, but there it is.) That storm began as Typhoon Freda in the South Pacific, weakened as it neared the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, then zipped straight to us, regenerating as it went. Gusts on the Oregon Coast registered close to 150 miles per hour. By the time it hit the Tacoma/Seattle area, it was reduced a bit. Wind speeds of 81 miles per hour. Unheard of around here.

The power was out everywhere. The only memory I have of that storm, other than clinging to my mother, along with my brothers and sisters, as we huddled together in our home and listened to that wind and felt the house shudder. Then Dad finally got home. The gash on his head validated his delay. He’d crashed the car trying to get to the house. I remember that moment as strongly as I remember my brothers scaring the heck out of me as we watched Jaws in the drive-in theater. But that’s another story entirely. (And great fodder for a future blog (growing up with siblings.)

A couple stories I researched about this storm:

Two lions owned by a man in Spanaway got loose and one attacked a seven-year-old child. He lived, thanks to his mother beating the lion off with…her shoe!

The Seattle World’s Fair was underway, including the brand spanking new Space Needle. As you know, it didn’t collapse. 🙂 But they evacuated everyone…except…the diners. They actually let them finish their meal before they asked them to leave!  Around the fair, loudspeakers announced that 80+ mile per hour winds were on their way. Some people left, some hunkered down in the largest building on the grounds to wait the storm out.

The biggest part of this storm lasted only a few hours, from late afternoon to late evening. But it left a lasting impression on me. And a lasting respect for wind. I live in a single-story house, not a two-story, for a reason. Lol.

This year, since El Nino has disappeared and La Nina didn’t quite show up, it’s considered a neutral year for us here in the PNW. That means it won’t trend in any specific direction. It could be calm (and is, most years). Neutral years are also our biggest storm years, like the Columbus Day storm. And flooding. Don’t get me started on that!

So here’s hoping October is calm and our plumes stick around through the winter. I hope you all have a peaceful entrance into Fall and a winter that is cold enough for cocoa, but not for checking out the survival gear. 🙂



10 responses to “Historically Short-lived Plumes

  1. I love Pampas grass but have never had it in the yard. And,,,,, I remember that Columbus day storm. It’s my birthday and my parents came over to celebrate and just about didn’t get back home. A huge fir tree blew down and just barely missed the house. We lived about a block from the city limits and were lucky to be some of the first to get our power back on.

    Great trip back through time with todays blog. I didn’t know about the lions getting loose.

    • Wow, that sounds close with the tree. And I was in awe of whoever that mother was, fighting off a lion with a shoe! It sounds like the first of the October wind storms around here is tonight, although it’s nothing like what Florida and the Caribbean are going through. My prayers are with them.

  2. WOW! Go mama for beating of the lion. That’s wild. Literally!!!
    Love Pampas grass. I think it’s lovely.
    I’ve never been in a Typhoon but plenty of hurricanes. Is it the same thing just a different name depending on the coast you’re on? Jillian

  3. Valerie J. Patterson

    Love Pampas Grass. Looking to plant some in a raised bed next spring on one corner of the yard. I’m not surprised a mom took on a lion armed with only a shoe. Historically, women have shown incredible strength when their children are in danger. Go Mom!!

    • Yep. We definitely have a “don’t mess with our kids” attitude. Even my husband has run up against it when we’ve butted heads on how to raise our children. (Thank goodness they’re all grown and our relationship survived!) And good luck with that pampas grass when you plant it!

  4. Ooo, I love pampas grass and a pity my garden isn’t large enough to grow some. Thankfully, my next door neighbour has a large one which I can enjoy as it plumes above our backyard fence. We don’t get many bad storms here, the last, a hurricane back in 1987 when many trees were lost. And full marks to that lady beating off the lion with her shoe. Shows what strength we have when our loved ones are in danger. 🙂

    • Kit, you have so many lovely things in your garden, I’m not sure you could fit one more thing in even if it were small. Lol. I LOVE the pics you do in spring and summer. You have an amazing green thumb, and an awesome painter’s thumb, and writer’s thumb…

  5. Pingback: Catch Up Blog… | Over The Backyard Fence

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