Fostering curiosity in kids (and their parents) since 2011

“Is Chicago really the windiest city?”

The Six-Year-Old studies a sign on the University of Chicago campus. (Photo: Shala Howell)

Shortly after being carried off by a wind gust on Michigan Avenue, The Eight-Year-Old naturally wanted to know…

“Is Chicago really the windiest city?”

According to the Weather Channel, no. The title of America’s Windiest City actually belongs to Amarillo, Texas, which boasts an average wind speed of 13.6 mph.

With an average wind speed of only 10.3 mph, Chicago doesn’t even make the top ten. Boston does though. It’s number 4, with an average wind speed of 12.3.

So why is Chicago called the Windy City?

Legend has it, that it’s because of our long-winded politicians. Charles A. Dana, the editor of the New York Sun, is widely believed to have regularly used the term Windy City in the 1890s to make fun of Chicago politicians who were lobbying for Chicago to be selected as the site of the 1893 World’s Fair. Just one problem: no one can actually find any instance in which Dana refers to Chicago as the Windy City in the pages of the New York Sun.

Etymologist Barry Popik, a consultant for the Oxford English Dictionary, believes that the term actually originated in 1876 as inter-city trash talk from Cincinnati, which was competing with Chicago and St. Louis at the time for the title of Greatest Mid-Western City. The term had a double meaning from the very start. The Cincinnati Enquirer article in which it originally appeared was ostensibly reporting on a twister that had just ripped through Chicago. In the article, the Enquirer joked that no damage was done because all the buildings in downtown Chicago “were so heavily weighed down with mortgages that no whirlwind could affect them.”

Good times.

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2 Responses to ““Is Chicago really the windiest city?””

  1. rayworth1973

    I’ve been in many windy places and Chicago didn’t particularly impress me for the weather phenomena, except it was friggin’ cold!

    Zaragosa, Spain was a LOT windier. One time we landed there in the early 80’s and when we got off the plane, my four year old daughter (at the time) couldn’t stand up at all. I had to hold her as we left the flight line for the terminal. One time I was there back in the early 70’s with a Mexican band at the NCO club and when we were unloading our amps, one of them (on casters) blew away and we had to chase after it.

    Another windy place was Abilene, Texas. When I first got there, I noticed all the trees leaned the same direction. I soon found out why…

    Altus, Oklahoma wasn’t much different, especially during “tornader” season.


  2. rayworth1973

    Oh, I almost forgot Lompoc, Calee’fornia. I lived there from 1958 until 1965 and I can hardly remember anytime when the wind wasn’t blowing. I even made a sailing craft out of a baby carriage and put masts on it and sails and used to ride it down the sidewalk.

    It was torture when I did my paper route, especially going east to west because the winds blew in from the ocean which was west of us.

    I once got clobbered in the heat while caddying for my dad at the Vandenburg golf course. A trash can lid flew off and beaned me. As a consolation, the old man drug the cart for the rest of that hole.



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