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5 Worst Winter Weather Cities

5 Worst Winter Weather Cities

The idea of perfect weather is as crazy as the idea of a perfect world or a perfect anything. One person’s ideal weather is another’s worst day. The funny thing about weather is that some people enjoy what most of us consider the worst weather (snowstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes). We’ve had people ask us where to move to for the best place to see tornadoes, believe it or not. To help us answer the question of  “perfect” weather, we polled our Facebook fans. The consensus seemed to be for clear blue skies, low humidity, temperatures around 75°F, and a light wind. Yet others said snow and lots of it. So instead of picking perfect weather we’re picking far-from-perfect or “worst” weather.

In the 2002 Farmers’ Almanac, we decided to offer our picks for the 10 best and ten worst weather cities. The response was amazing. Many agreed, some disagreed, and others suggested cities we should have included on the list. To compile this list, we looked at temperatures, sky conditions, precipitation, humidity, and wind. This year we’re doing it again, but with a twist–we are looking at which cities have the worst winter weather and which have the worst summer weather.

The following list took a number of meteorological factors into consideration, as well as the population size of the cities. We set a limit of a population of at least 50,000 people. Interestingly, from our original “10 Worst” list of 2002, two cities, Syracuse and New Orleans, made it onto our Worst Weather lists this year. Here are our listings for the ten cities, five each with the worst winter and worst summer weather in the United States.

Worst Winter Cities

5. DETROIT, MICHIGAN The hardest thing to adjust to in a Motor City winter is not so much the cold or wintry precipitation, it is the lack of sunshine. Winter days in Detroit mean an abundance of cloudy, gloomy days. The sky seems to be perpetually gray. During the winter season, two out of every three days are overcast. Clear, sunny days occur, on average, just 13 percent of the time.

4. CLEVELAND, OHIO The earmarks of Cleveland winters are cold and snow. Typically, there are an average of five days with subzero temperatures. Mean annual snowfall increases, from west to east in Cuyahoga County, from 45 to 90 inches. Winds generally blow across Lake Erie from the west and cause localized snow squalls in the city’s eastern suburbs.

3. CASPER, WYOMING Snow is common in this town and has occurred as early as September and as late as early June. The average daily winter temperature is 22°F, and on average, 181 days of the year have temperatures at or below 32°F. Casper is among the top five most windiest spots in the nation. The prevailing winter wind blows from the southwest, with the emphasis on “blows.” Some wind gusts have been clocked at over 60 m.p.h. The wind has knocked tractor-trailers off interstates. As one native put it: “In the winter we have snow followed by wind, wind followed by snow, and wind and snow together. In some places the snow never hits the ground but gets worn out by the wind.” And the late Jean Shepherd wrote: “Let me tell you, you’ve never been in a blizzard until you’ve been in a real Wyoming screamer. The snow was coming down so fast and hard that I felt I was driving through a white tunnel. It got colder and colder, and my windshield was freezing up faster than the defrosters could blow it off.

2. DULUTH, MINNESOTA “Frigid” is how many describe Duluth. During the winter, it’s second only to International Falls (“The Icebox of the Nation”) in terms of rank among the nation’s coldest cities. The transition to bitter winter weather is dramatic. In October, the average high temperature is a comfortable 53°F. But by December, it has fallen to 22°F, and by January (the coldest month), it’s only 16°F. An example of how extreme the cold can get here is “The Great Cold Snap of 1996” (January 29 through February 5). During that time, Duluth recorded 164 consecutive hours of below zero (°F) temperatures. On February 2, the low temperature was minus 39°F and the high temperature was minus 21°F. Duluth receives nearly 80 inches of snow, much of it as a result of cold easterly winds flowing over the western tip of Lake Superior, producing local lake-effect snowfalls. But it’s the frigid cold that gets Duluth a spot on our Top 5 list.

1. SYRACUSE, NEW YORK “Cold,” “clammy,” “snowy” are three great ways to describe Syracuse weather–from October through April. Winter starts very early and lasts late, with plenty of snow and extremely cold temperatures. Winter daytime temperatures average in the lower 30s, with nighttime lows in the teens, but temperatures as low as minus 25°F have been recorded. Snow also makes winter uncomfortable in Syracuse, averaging almost 120 inches per season. During the winter of 2009—2010, Syracuse was again the winner of the prestigious “Golden Snowball Award,” celebrating the city with most snowfall for the winter in upstate New York, beating out such snowy cities as Buffalo, Rochester, Albany, and Binghamton. Syracuse also made our Farmers’ Almanac “10 Worst” list in 2002. Another reason why this city makes the worst winter weather list — December, January, and February are typically gloomy, with Syracuse receiving only one third of the sunshine possible, because of considerable cloud cover.

Do you have a worst winter weather city that should make the list? Tell us about it.

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  • Jon Y says:

    Seriously, NYer’s need to be quiet. It’s not very cold there. You’re a bunch of girly girls.

  • Mike Kaderabek says:

    I remember in Mishicot, Wisconsin minus 65 ferriheight bundled up in 5 layers of clothes, grabbing the wheelbarrow to go to the barn to get wood for the house, and my dad would stay in the barn to check on our animals! That Lake Michigan cold wind from the North including Lake Superior!!! That wind would just swirl and cut right through you!

  • Mel K says:

    Lived in Minot, ND for several years in the 70’s and remember a neighbor walking 2 blocks to work and freezing to death. Temp was about -45° but with the windchill was about -85°F.
    Have seen -41°F in Casper, WY where I live now. (Not including windchill)

  • Mike says:

    This list looks to be almost 6 yrs old. I have lived in Casper, WY for 21 years (Southern California was home) I got a real eye opener for what cold and wind were all about. Never felt my lungs burn before…was crazy. We generally get the first snow and last snows in the US (early Sept. to early June is no joke). We don’t get the extreme temps. ( -35 F without wind chill is the coldest I’ve experienced) like places in Minnesota or North Dakota or the snow like the North East, but we do get cold early and it doesn’t begin to warm up until mid to late May. You cannot plant flowers or start a garden until about June. Having said that…..our wind is harsh and brutal….especially to the skin…..put even a 20 F day with a 35-40 mph wind and it’s damn cold! I know people from Alaska, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana…Colorado ….they all know what cold is about but agree the wind makes it almost unbearable to live here. They say, ” All take the cold, just get me out of this wind”. The sparse population also makes winter life in Wyoming very dangerous if you get yourself on a wrong road or stuck in a snow drift…..you can die……cell phone service isn’t the greatest! We always (all year round) carry some sort of warm clothing in our vehicles…..just in case.

  • M Loreque says:

    21. Ottawa, ON (Canada) – 22. Toronto,ON (Canada)
    whoever decided that these 2 cities have the coldest winters have clearly never spent a winter in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada – our city’s been nicknamed “Winterpeg” – pretty much says it all – one of the coldest in Canada…..
    “Winnipeg, Manitoba has the coldest winter weather of any major Canadian city. It ranks first for the lowest average temperatures. Winnipeg also is Canada’s city that most often drops to -30 degrees Celsius (-22 degrees Fahrenheit) or below and it is least likely to have a day above freezing during winter.”

  • M Loreque says:

    21. Ottawa, ON (Canada)
    22. Toronto,ON (Canada)

    these 2 listed as cold??!! You’ve GOT to be kidding me!!! Clearly you have never experienced a Winnipeg, Manitoba winter!!!

  • Joan Haskell says:

    Barrow, Alaska, farthest north city in the country. Fairbanks, Alaska. Temperatures below 0 to -75 for months. Complete darkness, wind chill.

  • Mainer says:

    How about any place in northern Maine? Presque Isle? Its snowy and cold until May.

  • Walter Clark says:

    Here is a list of worst places to live in, or to be in when a polar Vortex occurs during winter:

    1. Albany,NY
    2. Buffalo,NY
    3. Syracuse,NY
    4. Boston,MA
    5. New York City,NY
    6. Hartford and New Haven,CT
    7. Philadelphia,PA
    8. Pittsburgh,PA
    9. Baltimore,MD
    10. Atlanta,GA
    11. Dallas and Fort Worth,TX
    12. Denver, CO
    13. Cheyenne, WY
    14. Chicago, IL
    15. Minneapolis/ St. Paul, MN
    16. Duluth, MN
    17. Washington DC
    18. Detroit, MI
    19. Nashville, TN
    20. Memphis, TN
    21. Ottawa, ON (Canada)
    22. Toronto,ON (Canada)

    If you don’t like being out in a frigid cold, thanks to the polar vortex, my advice is to stay away from (or avoid) those cities that I mentioned above.

    Here are a list of cities to be in if you don’t like the frigid cold air, thanks to the Polar Vortex:

    1. Los Angeles, CA
    2. San Francisco, CA
    3. San Diego, CA
    4. Honolulu, Hi
    5. Orlando, Fla.
    6. San Juan, PR
    7. Mexico City, Mexico

  • Mark Allen says:

    Check the snowfall for Valdez 1989, bring your shovel.

  • MaryAnn says:

    I have to agree with some of the others .. Oswego and Watertown even worse than Syracuse

  • MaryAnn says:

    Just moved from Syracuse, lived in Baldwinsville. Left there this passed August. Worst winters ever. As beautiful as it is up there just not worth the brutal winters. Enjoying the warmer weather in FL now.

  • william frazey says:

    I have lived in Casper since the late seventies. Yes, we have wind, but as to snow I witnessed a blizzard while attending the University of Wyoming in 1978 that still makes me stop in wonder. As i recall the professionals said the true snowfall was only 11 inch, stating the wind carried the rest of what occurred off of the Laramie plains. As I sat in Crane Dorm I watched the handlebars of the bikes disappear. Then the cars in the parking lot, every one of them, disappeared. By morning the only thing visible in the lot was the top few inches of the walls of a home made pickup camper. In the dorm lobby we found truckers sleeping as they had left their rigs abandoned in the roads near the campus. I still recall how angry the student body was when the university refused to feed the truckers in the cafateria that served both Crane and Hill dorms. A friend and I made some good money when he and I were asked by the stranded drivers to visit a nearby “mom and Pop” grocery for supplies. God bless my Vermont Tubbs snowshoes and his cross-country skis. (As to the year it was either 77 or 78. Old timers you know.

    • Sharon says:

      We got about 4 feet in Casper Palm Sunday weekend in 1973. My husband grew up in Casper & remembers it snowing on his birthday sleepover June 24th in the ’60’s.

  • Alina Vincent says:

    I was born in upper Michigan. Awesome place to live. 2 months of summer and 10 months of snow. …:)

  • David Morgan says:

    Why the hell does everyone skip Northern New York!!!???? The Tug Hill gets snowfalls in may over feet and feet!!! Syracuse is nothing. The thousand islands gets pounded with snow off lake Ontario and the cooollllddd northern winds from Canada that is only 10 miles away. Winter of 2014 the windchills were averaging -40 snow fell to about 12 feet on the tug hill why no one pays attention to the real northern new York!!??? We top the snowfall and cold. Everyone needs to research northern new Yorks winter weather. Plus it was proved Copenhagen New York top the snowfall this year on the tug hill with over 25 feet!!!! Syracuse and buffalo have nothing on us

    • Et says:

      Because there are no cities in the north country with a pop of 50000 or greater. If you read the article that was the cutoff.

  • Erie PA says:

    Why didn’t the snowiest city of the past 5 years or so make the cut?

    • Et says:

      You were not. Syraucse edged out worchester ma a winter back and took the golden snowball trophy for at least a decade back. This past winter was no snow at all. Never saw that in over 50 yrs in syracuse. Close but not cigar. Tust me why would you want that award? Cant wait to move to florida in my retirement

  • James says:

    The winter of 2013/2014 was the coldest I’ve ever experienced in Duluth Minnesota..my car wouldn’t start,The heat was on 90 degrees and had the oven on 500..I still was was wearing two hoosies,winter hat ect..inside the house.Many people I talked to said their pipes burst in the house and there were cases of people who got hypothermia,one case of a umd college student who actually was outside all night and almost died..That was a brutal winter indeed.

  • Jodi says:

    I didn’t see to much about Milwaukee, Wisconsin and the fair share of Lake Effect snow that Lake Michigan never does freeze over either due to it’s depths. Just as Cheez Head had said, “What about Green Bay WI?” The Frozen Tundra. However I KNOW Milwaukee is highly populated and does get it’s fair share of snow right into Waukesha County where I live with an estimated population over 100,00 now. Last year we were in such a cold winter I actually heard for the very first time in my life the word “Polar Vortex” in which right under Lake Michigan a great big hole opened up under the lake so big that you could actually drive buses through it. And they sure did! It was totally safe with that type of cold weather that we haven’t seen since the 1970’s. And I sure remember back then we had so much snow that even the dining room window had been totally covered. Now this window was very long and I’m not talking horizontially either. And that day I remember for the first time ever my Dad had to call into work and tell them he was totally snowed in. But as a kid, my best friend was dropped off by her Mom and we kept warm out side by digging tunnels through the entire yard and making all of these really neat mazes and small little rooms here and there. But we stayed out of the wind and that is what kept us warm, plus my Mom would have all her hand knitted mittens all ready to go as we switched them our every hour or so for nice warm and dry ones made of this very soft type of wool yarn she would get just for mittens, gloves, hats and scarves. But now that I’m older, and have some medical issues of some pretty major and auto immune varieties. I am and have been thinking of where I want to live out the rest of my life somewhere that is nice a mild but not humid at all! Just warm and dry and in the winter time I can handle temps of 50’s or even down to 40’s, but this very bitter cold has to go now. And I have been to AZ and yeah, it’s a dry heat and all, but as soon as you get into the A/C, you begin just dripping like all get up! And I had even been mentioned about Hawaii and even though it’s beautiful there. I don’t like bugs! Not at all! And when I hear stories of these huge centipedes that actually are as big as a snake with a bunch of arms that have pinchers on then, and then they will stand up on part of their body and hiss and spit at you! NO THANK YOU! And every home has COCKROACHES??!!??!! Are you kidding me? Well I guess, since it is the most tropical state out of all of them. But that’s one thing, and the humidity, but I hear with the ocean surrounding it, it’s really not that bad, all depending on where you live. And Florida is so out! Been there and done that too many times to count, when my Son was younger and did the whole theme park vacations. Now I could handle some of that humidity, but again it would not be that bad if I lived right in the ocean in a hut in Bora Bora, that would be my dream and I would die there with a smile on my face. That would be my very first choice, if I could afford it. But that’s one of the most expensive places to go out of all of the places to live and move. So, my choices would have to be either California or somewhere in Colorado where it’s mostly sunny all of the time. I really do not fancy being anywhere SE even though I do have family in NC. And would have a place to stay until I found my own. And would not be any hurry, because it’s a double wide trailer all furnished with everything I would need. So, I still have time, I’m not going anywhere while my Mom is still here! That’s the only thing keeping me here. My Son’s wife is and airline attendant, going for her pilots degree. So they can come and visit me any time. And my siblings for the most part have the money to visit as well. Ugh! Just cannot tolerate these very cold sub zero temps. And then to follow, the really hot and humid summers and the springs that cause so much flooding here, especially since I live near the Fox River and many lakes here in Wisconsin. I do and will admit, the fall is just breathtaking and the temps are utterly perfect with very mild weather and only a light jacket, like my CK short slicker is perfect and I wear it often in both the fall and the spring time. But by far, the fall is my favorite! And the colors is what I will miss in nature here. Other than that, there would be nothing else keeping me here any longer than my Mom right now. And I feel so blessed she is with me every day, no matter how badly I want to leave. That just won’t happen and I’m not even going to think of it in terms of setting that date while she’s still here. And when she want to talk about it, I just let her know I DON’T! I don’t know if and how I’m going to handle that very difficult day. And I’m going to stop right here, I want to get it out and off of my mind now. And @Cheez Head, I WILL ALWAYS be a true Packer Fan for the rest of my life! Have been since I was 7 years old. Was my Dad’s little Packer Buddy, had season tickets when he was alive, and even in Milwaukee! I don’t know how he did it, but there were many times he would get tickets @ The Vikings, @ The Lions, @ Da Bears (We used to have a standard Poodle named “Pretty Boy” and he would say to Pretty Boy, “What do the Bears do? Pretty Boy would lay down and play dead, lol! We would say “What do the Packers do? Pretty Boy would tackle you! Lol! He was a very smart dog! And my Dad was so allergic to other types of dogs and cats, so we always had poodles, until I was 16, he got me a German Shepherd! AND went in for these shots to desensitse himself from being allergic to him. And he trained him as my guard dog, and he surely was my dog in every way. but he did love my Dad only! Besides me of course. And one very special trip we did have was when we say the Packers play @ The Cowboys and they won that game. I knew everything there was to know about the game when I was so young. Both my Dad and my Brother’s would teach me, and once I got it down, I was hooked! Now I’m going through my yearly football with drawls 😛 . I wish Stadium Football would have taken off much better than it did, and was on the T.V. when it did. I have no idea what happened with that! But they are forever my team. Win or loose, I am fan no matter what. Just wanted you know that.

  • michael says:

    the wind in Casper, is so bad you cant even go too the store, without the wind ripping off your car door..

  • dave l says:

    Let me settle the debate once and for all. 1st, let me state that I live in buffalo, ny. While buffalo can definitely get pounded by lake effect snow, it doesn’t get pounded like Syracuse. The main reason why is buffalo gets its lake effect from lake Erie while Syracuse gets it from lake Ontario. Since lake Erie is much more shallow that Ontario, it allows the lake to freeze over. Once lake Erie is frozen, no more lake effect snow develops. So, while buffalo does get pounded in late December and January, it pretty much stops snowing after that. However, because lake Ontario never freezes, due to it depth, Syracuse gets a constant of lake effect snow all winter.

  • Angel says:

    Watertown, NY aka Snowtown, USA should have made this list!!!! Watertown is north of Cuse!

  • Debbie 479 says:

    I’m surprised Buffalo, N.Y. isn’t on this list hmmmm I wonder why ?

  • Jacob says:

    Im from Duluth but live in Buffalo. Buffalo doesnt compare to Duluth with cold temps and snow. It doesnt help that Duluth is on a huge hill.

  • Dave says:

    I am celebrating Buffalo’s absence from the list because Western New Yorkers know how to turn winter into a positive. We ski … we skate … we sled and yes, we can conquer the worst snows Mother Nature sends us with good humor. Some comics and night show hosts might choose to mock the City of Good Neighbors but I will take a Buffalo winter any time …

  • collene says:

    Why is Buffalo, NY not on the list? We have the worst winter weather, more than Syracuse, NY.

  • Teacher Extraordinaire says:

    Why do these stories always skip northern WI? I have been in WI 54 years. Central and northern for 15 of those years. This year I will be in a community that regularly experiences 8 feet of snow and temps down as cold as -35. I would much rather have snow and cold than the ice storms of the southern states. You can control travel on snow. On ice it is impossible. The cold doesn’t bother me – Marshfield experienced 12 days of wind chills at or below -70 in the late 1990’s. Yet we still had open schools and businesses. Here’s to my new home town of Mercer and their promise of last year’s May snow day with 11″ of snow.

  • Dan says:

    I grew up in Buffalo and lived in Detroit for 12 years. Detroit winters are far more depressing, the total lack of sunshine. Combine the weather with the City of Detroit, and you’ve got a place that is most like Gotham City in the darkest of the Batman films.

  • JDF says:

    sad premonition’s by Florida Orange grower’s!!!

  • Emilye Rybarczyk says:

    Buffalo by far!!! We get all the lake effect right off the lake!

  • Diana says:

    How on Earth did we (Buffalo, NY) NOT make this list?

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