What is the windiest city in the whole wide world?
If you guessed Chicago, the so-called Windy City, you weren’t even close. Actually Chicago isn’t even one of the top 100 windiest cities in the United States.
The windiest city in the world is Wellington, New Zealand, which also happens to be the capital of the country.
What gives Wellington this dubious distinction and the name ‘Windy Welly’? Well, not only is it very windy in Wellington, but it is also windy much of the time.
Here are some statistics:
Average annual wind speed is 18 miles/hr.
On average, the city has 173 days per year with winds over 36 mph and 22 days with winds over 46 mph.
The highest gust reported is 154 mph in both 1959 and 1962.
October is generally the windiest month of the year with a mean of 27 days with wind speeds exceeding 17 mph and on 19 of those days exceeding 23 mph.
In Wellington’s windiest year on record, 233 days had winds topping gale-force (40 mph)
The positives—never any air pollution.
Even early on, people complained of the wind in Wellington. Frederick Daniel Basire in 1849 wrote:
‘anyone unless they were here cannot imagine the force of the wind it blows in too strong to let the waves rise very high, they just break and the wind carries the spray like fine dust …. and as to the main road along the beach it is quite painful to walk and face the wind for it is not only dust but large stones that come rattling against one’s face – I could not live here on any account solely for that great nuisance’
But none the less, a great number of people do live there. Wellington is New Zealand’s second largest city with a population (including the surrounding area) of about half a million. And as a matter of fact, one survey (2014 Mercer Quality of Living Survey) ranked Wellington 12th in the world for its quality of life.
Why is Wellington so windy? The city is located in what is called a River of Wind that sweeps across the Cook Strait between the North and South Islands. This along with a major break in the surrounding mountains at the bottom of the North Island channel wind through the city.
When taller buildings began to be constructed in the city, their positioning and shape often made things even worse by funneling the wind down to street level. In earlier years, one building had a series of ropes around it to prevent pedestrians from being blown into traffic and at times traffic police would be posted to assist people.
Today many buildings have been modified and new buildings are constructed in a manner to prevent at least some of the wind from funneling down into the streets.
Wellington Airport is also noted for harrowing landings when the wind is particularly strong or gusting; gusts exceeding 45 mph are reported on almost half of all days.
One Wellingtonian equated the wind to a presence or separate entity in the lives of people who live in the city. On a few particularly windy days when we were there, I might almost call it a malevolent spirit. It gusts and swirls down the canyon-like streets, whipping at your clothes and attempting to tear things from your hands.
Finally here’s a video from a news channel of an unfortunate woman getting blown over on a particularly windy day.
2) Alexander Turnbull Library, Dominion Post Collection (PAColl-7327)
Reference: EP/1994/3964 Photograph by Phil Reid
4 and 5) The Dominion Post Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library.