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.
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.”
- For our out of town guests: Why Chicago is called “The Windy City” (Change of Subject)
- America’s Windiest Cities (Weather Channel)