"Windy City" wrong in USA Today

Bapopik at AOL.COM Bapopik at AOL.COM
Thu May 30 01:08:33 UTC 2002

   I must have missed this one, from March 2002, USA TODAY, "ASK JACK."  Does
a single weatherman anywhere know that this is not true?--B.P.

03/13/2002 - Updated 07:56 PM ET

Answers archive: Chicago's 'Windy City' name

Q: My son and I are trying to figure out the top three windiest cities in the
USA. To my knowledge Chicago is number one and Minneapolis is number three.
If I am wrong please let me know.

A: Despite it's "windy city" nickname, Chicago isn't particularly windy. The
nickname goes back to a New York City newspaper editor's snide comment about
Chicago's bid for the 1893 World's Fair. That story is told at the bottom of
this answer.

In general the windiest parts of the USA are Alaska and the western Plains,
just east of the Rockies. A few other places near the coasts are also windy.

A few years ago the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) put out a list of
the 10 windiest cities in the USA. The windiest place on this list is Blue
Hill, Mass., with an average annual wind speed of 15.4 mph. Blue Hill, of
course, isn't a city. It's a weather observatory atop a hill near Boston. I
would consider it a "place," not a city. If you want to talk about the place
with regular, year-round weather observations that has the highest winds,
it's clearly Mt. Washington, N.M., with an average of 35.4 mph.

Another problem with the NCDC list is that it doesn't seem to include Alaska.
(Apparently no one has told the NCDC or the National Weather Service (NWS)
that Alaska and Hawaii became states in 1959. The NCDC often doesn't include
Alaska and Hawaii on list such as the windiest cities and the Weather Service
does not include these two states in its daily listing of the nation's
highest and lowest temperatures. USA TODAY knows Alaska and Hawaii are states
and goes to some extra effort to include them on our list of <A HREF="http://www.usatoday.com/weather/wext.htm">daily extreme
temperatures</A> when some place in either state should be on the list.)

Anyway, a NWS list of annual average wind speeds for about 300 places around
the USA with regular weather observations has the top three in Alaska. They

St. Paul Island, 17.4 mph
Cold Bay, 16.9 mph
Barter Island, 13.2 mph On the NCDC list that does not include Alaska nor Mt.
Washington, numbers 2, 3 and 4 after Blue Hill are:

Dodge City Kan. 14.0
Amarillo, Texas, 13.5
Rochester, Minn., 13.1 Minneapolis isn't all that far from Rochester, Minn.,
but the average at the Minneapolis-St Paul Airport is only 10.5 mph. Still,
this is faster than Chicago's annual average wind speed of 10.4 mph. A couple
of other cities with average higher winds that Chicago that I happened to
find are Boston with 12.5 mph and New York City's JFK Airport (which is near
the Atlantic Ocean) with 12.2 mph.

You can find information such as average wind speeds by going to the
USATODAY.com <A HREF="http://www.usatoday.com/weather/walm0.htm">Online weather almanac.</A> From the almanac page, follow the link
to <A HREF="http://www.usatoday.com/weather/waverage.htm">Detailed information about U.S. weather averages</A> and on that page scroll
down to the link to "Average wind speeds for about 300 U.S. cities." I don't
know of any list online that ranks the cities by wind speeds.

(Answered by Jack Williams, USATODAY.com weather editor, March 10, 2002)

A few days after the answer above was posted, we received the following:

Just read your answer to the windiest city and want to let you know what I
understand is the reason for Chicago (my birthplace) being called the Windy
City. Seems that during the bidding for the World's Fair of 1893, Chicago
proponents put on a rather verbose presentation and campaign to win the bid.
The choice was down to Chicago, New York, Washington and St. Louis, and the
competition before Congress among the cities was fierce. The New York Sun
editor Charles Dana wrote: "Don't pay attention to the nonsensical claims of
that windy city. Its people could not build a world"s fair even if they won
it." (Source: Chicago Days, by the Chicago Tribune staff)

The newspapers began calling Chicago the Windy City thereafter and the
nickname stuck. Perhaps, the name is enhanced by the fact that many of
Chicago's main streets run west-east and the channeling of winds through the
urban canyon from off Lake Michigan can be quite strong, higher than any
airport readings.

Keep up the good work. I am amazed how often we parallel our articles and

Keith C. Heidorn, PhD, <A HREF="http://www.islandnet.com/%7Esee/weather/doctor.htm">The Weather Doctor</A>

More information about the Ads-l mailing list