The peak winds were felt as the storm passed close by on October 12. At Oregon's Cape Blanco, an anemometer that lost one of its cups registered wind gusts in excess of 145 mph (233 km/h); some reports put the peak velocity at 179 mph (288 km/h).
At the Mount Hebo Air Force Station in the Oregon Coast Range, the anemometer pegged at its maximum 130 mph (209 km/h) for long periods—likely at the level of a Category 4 hurricane; damage to the radar domes suggested wind gusts to at least 170 mph (270 km/h). Dome tiles were thrown down the mountainside; the 200 lb (45 kg) chunks tore through entire trees.
At Corvallis, Oregon, an inland location in the Willamette Valley, 1-minute average winds reached 69 mph (111 km/h), with a gust to 127 mph (204 km/h), before the anemometer was destroyed and the observation tower began flying apart, forcing the abandonment of the station.
Ninety miles (145 km) to the north, at Portland, Oregon's major metropolitan area, measured wind gusts reached 116 mph (187 km/h) at the Morrison Street Bridge.
Many anemometers, official and unofficial, within the heavily stricken area of northwestern Oregon and southwestern Washington were destroyed before winds attained maximum velocity. For example, the wind gauge atop the downtown Portland studios of KGW radio and TV recorded two gusts of , just before flying debris knocked the gauge off-line at about 5 p.m.
For the Willamette Valley, the lowest peak gust officially measured was at Eugene. This value, however, is higher than the maximum peak gust generated by any other Willamette Valley windstorm in the 1948–2003 period.
In the interior of western Washington, officially measured wind gusts included at Olympia, 88 mph (142 km/h) at McChord Air Force Base, 100 mph (160 km/h) at Renton at 64 feet (20 m) and 98 mph (158 km/h) at Bellingham. In the city of Seattle, a peak fastest mile of 65 mph (105 km/h) was recorded; this suggests gusts of at least 80 mph (129 km/h). Damaging winds reached as far inland as Spokane.
Estimates put the dollar damage around $230 million to $280 million for California, Oregon and Washington combined, with nearly $200 million occurring in Oregon alone. These figures, in 1962 dollars, are comparable to land-falling hurricanes that occurred within the same time frame (say 1957 to 1961, Audrey, Donna, Carla). The dollar damage adjusted to 2002 for inflation and population/property increase suggest a $3 to $5 billion storm, if not more.
The Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. (now MetLife) named the Columbus Day Storm the nation's worst natural disaster of 1962.
In Central and Northern California, all time record rains associated with the cold front caused major flooding and mudslides, particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area. Oakland set an all time calendar day record with 4.52 inches (11.5 cm) of rain on the 13th, as did Sacramento with 3.77 inches (9.6 cm).
In the Willamette Valley, it is said that the undamaged home was the exception, with the damaged house being the rule. Also, many barns and other farm structures were destroyed by the storm; so many, in fact, that it is a safe bet to surmise that most Valley barns encountered today were built after October 1962. Livestock suffered greatly to the barn failures: the animals were crushed under the weight of the collapsed structures, a story that was sadly repeated many times throughout the afflicted region. At the north end of the Valley, two -high (150 m) voltage transmission towers were toppled.
Radio and TV broadcasting were affected in the Portland area. KGW-TV lost its tower at Skyline and replaced the temporary tower with a new one on January 281963. KOIN radio lost one of two AM towers at Sylvan. KPOJ AM-FM lost much of its transmitting equipment, plus one of two towers was left partially standing at Mount Scott. KPOJ-FM was so badly damaged it wouldn't return to the air until February 91963. KWJJ-AM lost one of its towers and a portion of its transmitter building at Smith Lake. KISN-AM also lost a tower at Smith Lake. Seven month old TV station KATU did not receive any damage at its Livingston Mountain site, six miles (10 km) north of Camas, Washington. However, KATU didn't have a generator and power was cut off.
For northwest Oregon, the entire power distribution system had to be rebuilt from the ground up. Some locations did not have power restored for several weeks. This storm became a lasting memory for local power distributors. Indeed, a number of high wind related studies appeared in the years after the storm in attempt to assess the return frequency of such potentially damaging winds.
The state Capitol grounds at Salem, and the state's college campuses, resembled battlefields with heavy losses of trees.
The Campbell Hall tower at Oregon College of Education (now Western Oregon University) in Monmouth crashed to the ground, an event recorded by student photographer Wes Luchau in the most prominent picture-symbol of the storm.
The Oregon State-Washington football game went on as scheduled Saturday, October 13 in Portland, in a heavily damaged Multnomah Stadium with no electric scoreboard or clock, and no hot showers for the players. Crews began clearing debris from the grandstand and playing field at about 5 am, and worked right up to the 2 pm kickoff.
East of Salem, the blow destroyed a historic barn that served as a clandestine meeting place by pro-slavery Democratic members of the state Legislature in 1860.
The effects of the Columbus Day storm are still present today. For example, many of the unimproved backcountry roads used by hunters, recreational enthusiasts, and loggers were put in during an intense timber salvage effort aimed at recovering some of the billions of board feet toppled by the gale. Also, the heavy-duty design of the radio towers on Portland's West Hills, with extensive and robust guy cables, is a direct result of the lessons learned by the 1962 catastrophe.
The level of emergency caused by this storm exceeds that of any other Pacific Northwest event in memory. When queried, locals who experienced the storm nearly unanimously tell an account that is both interesting and frightening. The memory is vivid even four decades after the storm. For many, the response was to seek shelter immediately, move away from windows and go into interior rooms or basements. Few storms in the Pacific Northwest evoke such a strong response.