The series began when Ellen Tyrell Ames, the wife of businessman Peter Ames was killed in an automobile accident, and the initial focus was on the efforts of the remaining members of the family to pick up the pieces of their lives.
Also featured besides the Ames was the Tyrell family. The Tyrells were one of the wealthiest families in Woodbridge. They are comprised of Judge J.T. Tyrell and his wife, Grace. Besides being very involved in the community, they owned Tyrell's Department Store, one of Woodbridge's top name retailers.
Susan, Peter and Ellen's oldest daughter, became the mother figure of the family and she began to boss everyone around. She would later marry a man named Alan Dunbar, and would still continue to be very selfish. She would later marry a man named Frank Carver, until that marriage was voided when Alan (thought to have been killed in the Korean War) returned. After Alan died, this time for real, Susan would leave Woodbridge.
Jerry, the sole son, snapped and literally went after the man who had killed his mother and nearly beat him up. He was sent to reform school and the time there really had reformed him. He would later marry a young woman named Hope Raymond, and the two of them would leave Woodbridge once and for all.
The youngest and most troubled was Amy Ames, whose needs were center and foremost to the rest because of her age.
Amy would become the focus of the show as she grew up (one of the rare characters who grew up in real time instead of SORASing which has become more prevalent).
After her first marriage to Kip Rysdale, who left her for his high-school Spanish teacher; she met and married her history professor in college, Paul Britton, who would throw her over for her arch-enemy, Belle Clemens (Marla Adams).
Belle would become her most enduring enemy, bent on destroying any semblance of happiness for Amy. This was due to the accidental death of Belle's daughter, Robin, which she blamed Amy for.
In fact, when she stole Paul Britton, Amy would have a nervous collapse. Besides her arch-enemy Belle, she would also run afoul of her step-sister, Janet Hill (Bibi Besch), who stole Kip from her, but he would leave Janet.
When Belle tired of him, she met and married Dan Kinkaid (Bernard Barrow) whose son, Kevin, would later marry Amy.
Peter had his own issues, in the form of his ex-fiancée (and his wife's older sister) Pauline Tyrell Harris Rysdale (played by Haila Stoddard) who had never fallen out of love with him. She stayed in the series until 1971, when it was revealed that she left town.
He eventually remarried, first to Amy's teacher, Myra Graham; and then after he divorced Myra, married divorcee Valerie Hill (Lori March). He was still married to her when he died of a heart attack while on business. Valerie stayed on to the end, still involved in the Ames life, even though she remarried psychiatrist Dr. Ian Northcote (Gordon Rigsby, Alexander Scourby).
Amy would also become a mother, having two children during the series' run. Lisa, her daughter by Paul Britton; and Danielle, a daughter she had by artificial insemination, given her by a Dr. Brian Neeves. He was married to a woman named Niele Neeves (played by Betsy Von Furstenberg). One of Belle's many henchwomen, a nurse named Martha Ann Ashley (Audre Johnson), told her boss about it, and decided to blackmail Amy to keep her new boyfriend stocked in Racing cars. However, that plan failed when the lover who enjoyed racing would fall in love with Belle's ward, Joanna Morrison (Audrey Landers).
The show featured numerous actors who would become famous later on, with the most notable ones being Diane Ladd (Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore; Alice); Troy Donahue (A Summer Place); Bibi Besch (Somerset; Love Is A Many Splendored Thing); Bernard Barrow (Ryan's Hope); David Ackroyd (Dallas); Lori March; Christina Crawford; Alexander Scourby; Roy Scheider (Jaws), Paul Michael Glaser (Starsky & Hutch); Donna Mills (Knots Landing); Ken Kercheval (Dallas); Audrey Landers (also of Dallas); Marla Adams (The Young and the Restless); Robin Strasser (One Life to Live); Nicolas Coster (Santa Barbara, One Life to Live, et al); Madeleine Sherwood (The Flying Nun); Jada Rowland (The Doctors); Diana Muldaur (L.A. Law); Judy Lewis; Wayne Tippitt and Marjorie Gateson.
However, the show was most famous for having the legendary actress Joan Crawford (Whatever Happened to Baby Jane), as a cast member, even for a short time. The then 60 year old actress was cast as 28 year old Joan Borman Kane, the role played by her daughter, Christina, who had been ill, when her mother substituted for her.
Christina would later rehash the situation, where her mother would arrive on set, drunk, in her famous book and film, Mommie Dearest.
However, the legendary actress's appearance on The Secret Storm would spur a couple of her films to be made into soaps, if but for a short time. The series, Flamingo Road, which would star Morgan Fairchild, Mark Harmon, Howard Duff, Kevin McCarthy, Barbara Rush and Stella Stevens; and The Best of Everything, based on a Rona Jaffe novel, which starred Gale Sondergard.