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Which U.S. Cities Have the Worst Wind Damage?

September 11, 2020

High winds can tear a roof right off of a house, cause shingles to scatter, or leave you with a tree limb in your living room. 

You don't need a hurricane or tornado for these types of damaging winds to occur. Windstorms can develop even without any precipitation, and persistent wind trends can put some areas at higher risk of wind damage. 

Where are the Windiest Cities in the US?

NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information has cataloged long-term wind speed data from 1984 through 2018. 

At the top of the list is Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, where the average wind speed is 36 miles per hour. This means on a typical day, there are near-gale conditions where whole trees are in motion and it starts to become difficult when walking against the wind. 

Within the 48 contiguous states, no other location comes close to this level of average wind speeds. Below are the cities in the continental U.S. with the highest average wind speeds.

20 Cities With the Highest Average Wind Speed (mph)

  1. Mt. Washington, NH: 35.7 
  2. Dodge City, KS: 13.1
  3. Amarillo, TX: 12.9
  4. Cheyenne, WY: 12.3
  5. Goodland, KS: 12.1
  6. Rochester, MN: 12.1
  7. Clayton, NM: 12.1
  8. Lubbock, TX: 12.0
  9. Casper, WY: 12.0
  10. Corpus Christie, TX: 11.7
  11. Wichita, KS: 11.5
  12. Boston, MA: 11.5
  13. Great Falls, MT: 11.4
  14. New York, NY: 11.3
  15. Oklahoma City, OK: 11.3
  16. Wichita Falls, TX: 11.2
  17. Grand Island, NE: 11.2
  18. Fargo, ND: 11.1
  19. Galveston, TX: 11.1
  20. Concordia, KS: 11.0

Notably, Chicago didn't make the list, despite its nickname as the Windy City. 

Its average wind speed is only 9.9 mph. However, much stronger wind gusts can be felt in the city streets. Wind tunnels are a common phenomenon in several cities where wind speed increases as the air is squeezed between skyscrapers.

The variability of wind gusts is demonstrated at a recent wind event at Monarch Pass in Colorado. A weather station at 12,031 feet above sea level recorded a wind gust of 148 mph. Simultaneously, a weather station on the highway that's just 700 feet below it had wind speed recordings that were only 32 mph.

Mapping U.S. Wind Trends

How do the windiest cities in the U.S. fit into bigger wind trends? Aggregate wind maps can reveal the hotspots of fast wind currents while also showing which areas have low wind risk. 

windiest cities in the US

The above map of averages shows overall trends. However, wind is highly variable. During specific weather patterns, wind can take on much different patterns. In this collection of wind illustrations, the changing behavior of wind is displayed across several different wind events. 

What Was the Worst Wind Event in the US?

In 1934, there was a record-breaking wind event on Mt. Washington. A team of scientists measured 231 mph wind speeds. That's 74 mph faster than a Category 5 hurricane. 

It tends to be windier in higher elevations. However, Mt. Washington is a relatively small peak with an elevation of only 6,288 feet. That's much less than the Colorado peaks that can be 14,000+ feet.

Elevation may have contributed to this event, but it wasn't the cause. The extreme wind on Mt. Washington was due to a high-pressure gradient where there's a strong high-pressure air mass on one side and a strong low-pressure air mass on the other. During these circumstances, the air rushes quickly from high pressure to low pressure. 

To put the top wind speed into context, this video of 109 mph wind on top of Mt. Washington shows how it can toss a person into the sky.  

When Mt. Washington recorded 231 mph winds, it broke the world record for the fastest wind gust ever recorded. This record held for nearly 62 years. In 1996, a wind measurement of 253 mph was made by an unmanned device during a tropical cyclone in Australia. 

How Much Property Damage Can Wind Cause?

When we looked at the worst U.S. cities for hurricane damage, we primarily focused on the ways that flooding and storm surge can damage the home. However, a windstorm, tornado, and hurricane-force winds can cause tremendous damage. 

The first thing that commonly happens during high winds is that it will compromise a weak spot of the home such as a window, door, or garage. Then this opening turns the entire structure into a wind tunnel, channeling increased wind velocity through the house. The uplift effect can then tear off the roof of the house if it's not reinforced with a wind brace.

High winds can also cause debris to fly, branches to fall, and trees to topple. This can potentially cause impact damage to roofs, siding, or windows. If trees are growing too close to a home, the structure could be at risk. If the wind uproots these trees, they could take soil, rocks, and parts of your foundation with it.  Other forms of wind damage are also pervasive. Roof leaks, water in the basement, or missing shingles could be indicators that a house has suffered wind damage. 

Gutters and downspouts can also be torn from a house during windstorms. A wind-proof option is to use an exterior channel drain to make sure water is always flowing away from the house, and installing a basement sump pump can help you to quickly remove water from the basement, even if your roof leaks. 

About one-quarter of all homeowner insurance claims are due to wind damage, according to an analysis of Travelers Insurance policies. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average claim settlement is $10,182.

A free inspection from the country's leading basement waterproofing and foundation repair experts can help you learn what steps you can take to improve your drainage, protect your foundation, and secure your home.