Earlier this summer we aired the Ranger Bill episode Chinook (RB-033). In that story, the warm Chinook winds in the heart of winter melted huge amounts of snow. The melt was threatening Mid-Mountain Dam.
Those Chinook winds mentioned in the story are quite real and every bit as dangerous as mentioned on Ranger Bill. Chinook winds are warm, moist winter winds that blow to the east or southeast from the Pacific Ocean. These Chinooks generally blow across the states of Washington and Oregon. The winds are strong enough that they make it from the ocean to the Rockies. The Chinook winds drop moisture as they rise over the west side of the mountains. This warms the air. Then the air warms further as it travels down the east die of the Rockies from compression. These warm Chinooks can and do cause heavy melting and flooding in winter.
The Chinook winds got their name from the equally powerful Chinook Indian people. The Chinooks were the great trading people of western America. The Chinooks lived in the Washington/Oregon area. But they traded from Alaska all the way to Central and South America. The wealth of goods was legendary across America. Tribes as far away as the Great Plains traveled west to trade with the Chinooks.
The Chinooks were peaceful people, but were nearly wiped out by Europeans. They were not killed off by soldiers with guns and swords. They were killed by European hunters, trappers and traders who brought diseases from Europe that the Indians had no resistance to. The Chinooks barely survived the spread of disease. Only a small group of Chinook Indians remain today.