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7 Weather Myths Debunked!

Many U.S. states have reputations and weather monikers that are often undeserved. Which of these have you always thought were true? Read on!

You’ve heard about them before – the windiest, coldest, and rainiest places in the United States. But is it possible that in many of these cases, fiction looms just a little bit larger than fact? Read on to see some of the most common American weather myths debunked!

 Myth 1: Chicago is called the “Windy City” because it’s the windiest city in the US.

A young woman is fighting against the storm with her umbrella.

Believe it or not, politicians are the ones that are responsible for the title of “Windy City.” Historians believe that this nickname came about in the late 19th Century because Chicago and New York were competing to host the 1893 World’s Fair. The editor of the New York Sun, Charles Dana, took a potshot at Chicago’s politicians when he wrote about the “nonsensical claims of that windy city” in an editorial explaining why Chicago wasn’t fit to hold the World’s Fair. Soon, others started referring to Chicago as the “Windy City” and the name stuck.

When it comes to actual winds and not blustering statesmen, Amarillo, Texas, is the windiest city with average wind speeds of 13.6 mph.

Myth 2: Kansas is the most tornado-prone U.S. state.

Because it’s situated right in the middle of Tornado Alley (and perhaps because of The Wizard of Oz) Kansas has captured America’s imagination as the most tornado-prone state. When you look at it by the numbers, Texas experiences more tornados per year – 155 compared to 96. Of course, that’s in part because Texas is so much larger than Kansas. When you factor the number of tornadoes by square mile, Kansas still doesn’t come out on top. Texas, Oklahoma, and Florida all see more tornadoes per square mile than Kansas.

Myth 3: Hawaii is weather paradise.

When you think of Hawaii, you think of sunny, 80-degree weather all year long. For the most part, that’s true. However, Hawaii’s weather does have a dark side. The eastern side of the island of Kauai, for example, is the wettest known place on earth, averaging an amazing 450 inches of rainfall per year.

Myth 4: San Francisco is always foggy.

Golden Gate Bridge - San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge

Those of us who aren’t from San Francisco find it easy to assume that this city is shrouded by fog year-round. While San Francisco boasts legendary fogs, they normally only occur during the summer when cool air from the ocean clashes with warm air from California’s Central Valley.

Myth 5: Alaska is the coldest US state.

You would think that with its far northern latitude, Alaska would be the coldest spot in the United States. However, that title goes to International Falls, Minnesota, which has been nicknamed the “Icebox of the Nation.” International Falls has a yearly average of 37.8 degrees, an all-time low of 55 degrees below zero, and an average of 58 subzero days per year.

To be fair, some regions of Alaska do get much colder than this. However, most of Alaska’s cities are along the coastline, which means that they benefit from the ocean’s warming effect. Juneau, for instance, has a yearly average temperature of 41.5 degrees.

Myth 6: The Sunshine State lives up to its name.

California is also a Sunshine State.

Florida has long been known as the “Sunshine State,” but according to a map from the CDC, which shows the average daily sunlight from 1979 to 2011, Arizona, New Mexico, California, and the western half of Texas, are all sunnier than the Sunshine State. Phoenix gets approximately 299 sunny days each year while Tampa only gets around 246 sunny days every year.

Myth 7:  Seattle is called the “Rainy City” because it’s the rainiest city in the US.

asperitas clouds

Seattle is known far and wide as the “Rainy City” for its abundance of bleak, cloudy, drizzly days. It turns out that with cloud cover approximately 60% of the time, Seattle isn’t the dreariest place in the United States. In fact, it’s the fourth cloudiest city in the United States, with 226 days of cloud cover per year. Juneau, Alaska, is the number one cloudiest city with 280 overcast days each year. When it comes to rainfall, Hawaii far outstrips Seattle, and even places like New York and New Orleans get more rain each year.

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Amber Kanuckel

Amber Kanuckel is a freelance writer from rural Ohio who loves all things outdoors. She specializes in home, garden, environmental, and green living topics.

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Stephen Coleman

In 1975 the wind was clocked at Hanford, Washington at 150 miles an hour. That was as high as the wind gauge would go. It blew the last electric freight train off the track and into the Columbia River near the town of Schwana, about 8 miles south of where Interstate 90 crosses the Columbia River. Single wide trailer houses will roll about four to six quarter turns before they disintegrate. I’ve seen couches and overstuffed chairs that have blown 100 yards or further from the house. Papers were hung up in in every sagebrush for as far as you could see as pages were ripped out of books. At vantage I have seen flat-bed hay trucks parked by the Golden Harvest Café waiting for the wind to subside because the drivers were afraid to cross the bridge. Unfortunately, their trailers flipped upside down due to the wind.

Kelli

I thought Ketchikan, AK was the wettest town in the US?

DonL

I have been constantly telling folk that Chicago, “The Windiest City,” moniker had zero to do with weather reality but with the city’s reputation in the mid-20th century for high-windedness of its often crooked politicians and their tornadoes of hot air.
I would append that if Washington DC were a bona-fide, legally recognized “city,” it would get the political moniker “windiest city” hands down. Though I am willing to bet the metropolitan area of NYC comes in a very close second.

Roland Newby

As a native of Amarillo, I can confirm the windiness of the area. If they knew what was good for them, men weighing less than 200 pounds would carry pockets full of rocks everywhere they went on foot. (I never had to.)

Gary

Mobile, Alabama has more rain than Seattle, Washington. New Orleans doesn’t even come close to the amount of rain Mobile gets.

Christie

Neat!! Read this

Damian Crisostomo

Before you do that, it would be a good idea to know whether the wisdom you’re about to include is true or just a myth. So, this week, a handful of oft-repeated bits of nature lore – some true, some not.

Maggie Barnett

Seattle used to be dreary, but the last couple of year it has been anything but. This year we have had the driest June ever, the most days over 90 degrees ever, the most consecutive over 80 degrees ever. I used to live in the Gilroy area of California and the weather in Seattle certainly reminds me of the weather down there. This year our gardens are crazy! I picked my first ripe sugar pumpkin on 7/31, usually don’t see that until late September.

Judy

i have seen lots of spider webs lately. Does this have anything to do with bad weather??

k

Oregon is known as wet, but 75% of it is dry and sunny!

Amber Kanuckel

The worst winds I can remember here in Ohio were from Hurricane Ike a few years back. I think the top speeds were around 75 mph and it practically flattened us! I couldn’t imagine 40 mph winds on a regular basis – winds like that are a major event around here! Even 20 mph means its time to run outside and put away all the lawn furniture.

Colorado Slim

Amber can knuckle down on some good weather stories, I’m here to tell ya! Rain’s real common here in Palm Beach County Florida, and that’s good, ‘keeps it cooler.

Kimberly

I’m from the Amarillo area – the wind ALWAYS blows. It’s newsworthy if it doesn’t blow, lol. Growing up I’d see people on tv having picnics and I never understood why anyone would go on one. I figured the wind blew everywhere and couldn’t figure why’d you want to try to hold your food, utensils, tablecloth, etc down and try to eat.

The wind frequently blows over 20 mph in the Texas Panhandle. It’s because the area is on a caprock (the mountains are underground). Not uncommon for the wind to blow 40+. I always laugh when I hear it’s gonna be windy somewhere with wind of only 20 mph. That’s a regular day back home 🙂 Plus, it’s in Tornado Alley!

JD Mitchell

Thanks, great article

James Willard

Mt. Washington, NH is not the “windiest” place; however it is the Record Holder for the “World’s Highest Recorded Wind Speed”. 236 miles per hour!

Michael Robert

I live in Canada and up until today I believed ALL OF THE ABOVE statements. Thanks for making me grateful to live where I do.

Ronda

Just Googled “windiest” — The top 100 came up. On this list, Amarillo was number 3 with avg. windspeed of 13.3. Brockton, MA came in at #1 with 14.3. Framington, MA came in #2 with 13.6.

The list also shows a map of these windiest places. It is noted that a huge cluster are on the mid- and southern plains, which is where Amarillo is.

The list is found on City-Data, which appears to be up-to-date.

I can see where the Top windiest cities might shift positions from year to year, depending on the previous year’s weather and how that figures into the averages.

Cynthia Peters

Mt Washington is the windiest location in the U.S. is what I have heard multiple times.

SUE HURT

Great Falls is the fourth windest .

Robert Pallone

Myths Debunked…interesting article. However, I thought I read where Great Falls, Montana was the windiest city in the USA…and…I thought I read it in the Farmer’s Almanac a few years back.
Thank you, Robert

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