1407: Worst Hurricane

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Worst Hurricane
'Finding a 105-year-old who's lived in each location and asking them which hurricane they think was the worst' is left as an exercise for the reader.
Title text: 'Finding a 105-year-old who's lived in each location and asking them which hurricane they think was the worst' is left as an exercise for the reader.

This comic has a larger version available.

[edit] Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: State, severity and remarks still need to be filled for all hurricanes.
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.

The map divides America's Atlantic coastline into regions according to the worst hurricane that has hit each area in the last century, based on data from the North Atlantic hurricane database (HURDAT) to determine the severity and the National Centers for Enrvironmental Prediction's (NCEP) rainfall to determin where the hurricane was present. Most of the hurricanes are listed by their US reporting names, with hurricanes before 1953 (the year when the current naming system was established) being listed by their year and sometimes a sequence number or city name.

The title text is a joke in light of this bleak humor, saying that finding residents in each of the regions who are old enough to have been alive through all of these is quite a daunting task. In principle, this would be the only way to confirm the "worst hurricane in living memory," and may be taken as a riposte to anyone who wishes to argue this map: "If you think there was a worse one, find a 105 year old resident who agrees!" 105 was likely chosen because most people can only remember back to an age when they were 5, so someone would have needed to be 5 years old to remember a hurricane in any detail 100 years later.

Hurricanes and especially their names have been featured before in comics 453: Upcoming Hurricanes, 944: Hurricane Names and 1126: Epsilon and Zeta.

[edit] Listed hurricanes

A full list of North Atlantic hurricanes after Tropical cyclone naming was introduced can be found here.

Date Name States Highest winds Lowest pressure Casualties

(Est. total)

Damage estimate

(USD; uninflated)

1915 1915 II LA TX OK AR 145 mph 940 mbar 400 $50 million
1915 VI LA MS AL TN KY WV PA 145 mph 931 mbar 275 $13 million
1916 1916 IV SC NC 115 mph 960 mbar 7 $100,000
1916 VI TX 135 mph 932 mbar 15 $1.8 million
1918 1918 I LA 120 mph 955 mbar 34 $5 million
1921 1921 VI FL 140 mph 941 mbar 6 $3 million
1926 1926 I FL 140 mph 967 mbar <287 $16,401,000
1926 II GA 140 mph 967 mbar unknown unreported
1926 III TX LA AL 115 mph 955 mbar 25 $6million
1926 VII FL AL MS LA 150 mph 930 mbar 478 $22 billion
1928 1928 IV FL SC NC 160 mph ≤ 929 mbar <4,078 $100 million
1932 1932 II TX 150 mph 935 mbar 40 $7.5 million
1933 1933 VI NC VA MD PA 140 mph 940 mbar 31 $27 million
1935 1935 III FL 185 mph 892 mbar <400 unreported
1938 1938 VI NY CT 160 mph 940 mbar 682 $300 million
1940 1940 III SC NC 100 mph 972 mbar 50 $13 million
1941 1941 II LA TX 125 mph 942 mbar 4 $7 million
1942 1942 III TX NM OK 115 mph 950 mbar 8 $26.5
1944 1944 VII NY NC to CT 145 mph 933 mbar 390 <$100 million
1944 XII FL 145 mph 937 mbar 300 $100 million
1946 1946 VI FL NC 100 mph 977 mbar 5 (in Cuba) $5.2 million
1947 1947 IX FL GA SN NC 105 mph 965 mbar 1 $20 million
1949 1949 II FL GA to NH 130 mph 954 mbar 2 $52 million
1950 Easy FL GA AK 125 mph 958 mbar 2 $3.3 million
1954 Carol NY CT NH NC MA VA DC DE NJ 115 mph 957 mbar 72 $462 million
Edna NY VA NC NJ MA ME NH 120 mph ≤ 954 mbar 29 >$42.8 million
Hazel NC VA WV MD DE NY PA NJ DC 150 mph ≤ 937 mbar 1,000-1,200 $420 million
1955 Connie NC SC VA DC MD MI PA NJ NY 145 mph 936 mbar 74 <$86 million
Diane PA NJ NY NC WV MA RI VT 120 mph ≤ 969 mbar ≥184 $754.7 million
1957 Audrey TX FL LA MS AL MI MO IL NY PA VT ME 145 mph 945 mbar <416 $147 million
1958 Helene SC to ME 135 mph 934 mbar 1 $11.4 million
1959 Gracie SC GA VA PA 140 mph 950 mbar 22 $14 million
1960 Donna FL GA SC NC VA MD PA NJ NY CT MA VT NH 160 mph 932 mbar 164-364 $900 million
1961 Carla TX LA OK IL FL NE MO MI WI IN AL AK MS IA 175 mph 931 mbar 43 $325.74
Esther NC VA MD DE NJ NY CT MA NH 145 mph 927 mbar 7 $6 million
1964 Dora FL 130 mph 942 mbar 5 $250 million
Hilda FL TX LA GA MS NC SC AL TN VA MD DE 150 mph 941 mbar 38 $126 million
1965 Betsy FL LA MS AR TE MO 155 mph 941 mbar 81 $1.42 billion
1966 Alma FL (up to FL/GA border) 125 mph 970 mbar 91 $210.1 million
1967 Beulah 160 mph ≤ 923 mbar 688 $1 billion
1969 Camille 175 mph 900 mbar 259 $1.42 billion
1970 Celia 125 mph 945 mbar 28 $930 million
1972 Agnes 85 mph 977 mbar 128 $2.1 billion
1974 Carmen 150 mph 928 mbar 8 $162 million
1975 Eloise 125 mph 955 mbar 80 $560 million
1979 David 175 mph 924 mbar <2,068 $1.54 billion
Frederic 135 mph 943 mbar 14 $2.3 billion
1980 Allen 190 mph 899 mbar 269 $1.24 billion
1984 Diana 130 mph 949 mbar 3 $65.5 million
1985 Elena 125 mph 953 mbar 9 $1.3 billion
Gloria NC VA MD DE NJ NY MA ME CT RI NH ME 145 mph 919 mbar 14 $900 million
Kate 120 mph 954 mbar 15 $700 million
1989 Hugo 160 mph 918 mbar ±107 $10 billion
1991 Bob 115 mph 950 mbar 17 $1.5 billion
1992 Andrew 175 mph 922 mbar 65 $26.5 billion
1995 Opal 150 mph 916 mbar 63 $5.1 billion
1996 Fran 120 mph 946 mbar 27 $3.2 billion
1998 Bonnie 115 mph 954 mbar 5 $1 billion
1999 Floyd FL to ME 155 mph 921 mbar 77-87 $6.9 billion
2002 Lili LA MS AK 145 mph 938 mbar 15 $925 million
2003 Isabel NC to PA 165 mph 915 mbar 51 $5.37 billion
2004 Charley 150 mph 941 mbar 35 $16.3 billion
Frances 145 mph 935 mbar 49 $9 billion
Gaston 75 mph 985 mbar 9 $130 million
Ivan 165 mph 910 mbar 123 $18 billion
Jeanne 120 mph 950 mbar <3,035 $7 billion
2005 Dennis 150 mph 930 mbar 89 $4 billion
Katrina 175 mph 902 mbar <1,833 $108 billion
Rita 180 mph 895 mbar 97-125 $12 billion
2008 Gustav 155 mph 941 mbar 153 $6.61 billion
Ike 145 mph 935 mbar 195 $37.5 billion
2011 Irene 120 mph 942 mbar 56 $16.6 billion
Lee 60 mph 986 mbar 18 $1.6 billion
2012 Sandy 115 mph 940 mbar 286 ≥ $68 billion

[edit] Irrelevant hurricane facts

Hurricanes have a maximum wind speed in the eye-wall around the centre of the storm. After a storm passes over land it loses the warm water needed to power it, and rapidly dissipates. Around the Caribbean Sea there are major storms, like Katrina, that affect a long path inland, and storms such as Carmen that have had significant effects on local coastal areas. Further north the pattern changes, as hurricanes will be beginning to transform to an extra-tropical depression, and can intensify over land. There may be a degree of sample bias, as hurricanes from the early half of the twentieth century may not have been monitored as intensely after making landfall.

[edit] Transcript

Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.
  • The current transcript below lacks all the hurricane names.
What's The
Worst Hurricane
Anyone In Your Town Remembers?
Estimated from Hurdat Database and NCEP rainfall totals
[A map of the east coast of the United States as far southwest as the Texas/Mexico border, as far northeast as the Maine/Canada border, and as far inland as Kentucky. The map has coastal regions blocked out with the name and year of the worst hurricane in the last 100 years.]
comment.png add a comment! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!


I tried to list all the unnamed hurricanes, but I gave up after 1938. Anybody feel like finishing it? 05:37, 13 August 2014 (UTC)

The current explanation seems to interpret the title text completely wrongly; it isn't about finding a person that lived in *all* of the states, but finding people that lived in *each*. The point is that the entire data is estimated based on rainfall, not based on actually asking people the question. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I very much doubt that the data was based on rainfall, which is pretty irrelevant to the severity of most hurricanes. The severity is generally a factor of storm surge and windspeed, rainfall only becomes relevant far inland.
And the map is too small scale to really represent what you would get if actually asked people - for instance, in Fort Lauderdale it's unlikely anyone would say Andrew was worst (having been thru both Andrew and Wilma, I'd say Wilma was worse, but old timers in Fort Lauderdale would say the 1947 hurricane was worst). (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Except the fact remains that the comic says it is based on rainfall. So why is wind speed and pressure on the table?

Hurricane Audrey was in June 1957. Jkrstrt (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Some areas in the map is pretty large se Opal, Katrina, Hugo while others are very small like 1946 near the tip of Florida. I don't know much about hurricanes but could one draw a conclusion that the hurricanes in the small areas are not as bad as the larger ones (and that some large ones like those near Mexico, are large only because they don't receive many hurricanes)? Should one add a note in the description why not entire America is mapped? We know that the Atlantic is very good at producing hurricanes but why doesn't the Pacific Ocean produce as many? I write my comment out of curiousity hoping someone has the answers, not that I know much about this (I am not even an American). Aquaplanet (talk) 10:09, 13 August 2014 (UTC)

That would be a false conclusion. The area of severe damage for a hurricane is fairly narrow (perhaps 50 miles wide), so if another hurricane has hit nearby, each would just be "worst" in a small area. Conversely, in an area that gets few hurricanes even light damage would count as "worst". Just for reference, in terms of deaths the three most severe hurricanes would be 1915 Galveston TX, 1926 Palm Beach FL, and 2005 Katrina MS/LA. In terms of wind strength, the three most severe would be 1935 Florida Keys, 1969 Camille MS, and 1992 Andrew (FL). (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
On the Pacific coast of the US we get no hurricanes. This is due to the cold water flowing south from Alaska rather than coming north from the equator. This in turn is due to the clockwise flow of large bodies of water in the northern hemisphere, which is in turn due to the coreolis effect (caused by the rotation of the earth.) In California we only remember hurricanes because we here about them on the news, or occasionally when we travel. 10:25, 13 August 2014 (UTC)BluDgeons
There are no hurricanes in Pacific because they are called Typhoons (difference) and damage places like South East Asia where the concentration of news reporters is lower. -- Hkmaly (talk) 11:01, 13 August 2014 (UTC)
Both of the above comments are mistaken. Tropical cyclones in the western Pacific are called hurricanes. It is possible (altho rare) for a hurricane to hit California (it's common in Baja California). If the map were expanded to include California and Arizona, 1997 Kathleen would probably be the worst anyone remembered. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
West Pacific and Baja are not US which I specifically stated for that reason. I also doubt anyone remembers Hurricane Kathleen, I certainly don't. 08:56, 15 August 2014 (UTC)BluDgeons

I swear there must be a small joke in there about the reporters, but the veil is a bit too opaque for me, I fear... Also, is it kosher for me to fix people's links, if it's evident what needs to be fixed, and what they meant to put? -- Brettpeirce (talk) 11:19, 13 August 2014 (UTC)
You're welcome, and actually encouraged, to do that; a wiki is a group project, with every editor contributing their knowledge and fixing others' errors.--Troy0 (talk) 12:12, 13 August 2014 (UTC)

"'If you think there was a worse one, find a 105 year old resident who agrees!'" I would like to point out that if someone has the specific hurricane that they would like to claim to be worse than the presented one, they only need to find someone who experienced both hurricanes; there is no need for 105-year-olds every time.--Troy0 (talk) 12:16, 13 August 2014 (UTC)

Is there any rhyme or reason to the parentheses? I can't figure out why we have Connie (1955) and Diane 1955. jameslucas (" " / +) 13:10, 13 August 2014 (UTC)

If we make a complete list, are we ordering it chronologically or north-to-south? It seems easier to list it from Maine to Texas. Unless we can create a list that lets you adjust those fields which I don't know how to do173.245.56.152 12:44, 13 August 2014 (UTC)

There is no proper north to south order, but we could create a table with name, year, state and description, so you can order by it. Condor70 (talk) 15:07, 13 August 2014 (UTC)

Very cool. And next someone could mash this up with a population density map and find the number of people likely to remember each one as "worst", then sort by that ro find the hurricane most-remembered as "worst". Nealmcb (talk) 15:43, 13 August 2014 (UTC)

This comic might have been inspired by Robin William's bit on hurricanes in Weapons of Self-Destruction in light of his recent death. 15:19, 13 August 2014 (UTC)

It might be of interest to colour the hurricanes by decade; see if there's a visible secular trend in hurricane "worseness". 20:24, 13 August 2014 (UTC)

Like this? (smaller version isn't yet available or I'd link to that) --Mwarren (talk) 00:36, 14 August 2014 (UTC)

XKCD 1407 with timeline.png

Not really. That doesn't distinguish between hurricanes which were the worse over a small area, and the worse over a large area. A less bad hurricane that by chance hasn't been topped in a small locality has the same weight as a more intense one that was the worse over large tracts of land. What I was thinking of was colouring the map according to date - start at hue 0 (red) in 1914 and end at hue 200 (magenta) in 2014. The problem is that the potential sample bias mentioned would lead to a apparent trend to worser hurricanes, so any map so coloured wouldn't necessarily represent the reality of the record. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

That's beautiful but I thought it would be more like the tables here:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_elements (maybe not the best example) but each vertical column would be ordered so we'd have dates, states, severity, etc. Just basically like a grid. Maybe I was alone in that thought. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Suggestion: HSL model (or perhaps HSV) colour-space applied on the map such that Hue (say Red/0° up to Magenta/300°, the long way round) represents the year of a given hurricane, Saturation (if only to cash in on the obvious pun) depicts actual rainfall and Luminosity/Lightness or 'brightness' Value or the Intensity value (whatever it is you're using) can show windspeeds. If anyone can go back to the source data (which Randall has) it might even be possible to blend neighbouring zones together, although with this system that'd risk (say) a 1914 (Red-hued) hurricane neighbouring a 1954 one (Green-hued) giving a yellowed zone between them that might looking like an intersticial 1934 storm area (with rainfall/windspeed qualities based upon the combinatorial method you use). However, sticking to just the 'areas of majority', you could either flood-fill with their worst/greatest/typical HSX or (if the source data gives the required granularity) gradient it to show how (for example) 1995 Opal tails off into Tennessee, if my US geography is correct, while showing how Ivan's path interleaves the former patchily but (where it shows through against its competitors) doesn't evaporate, just get outdone. IYSWIM 12:38, 15 August 2014 (UTC)

Restructured the list into a table. Would you like to fill in the states (I'm not familiar enough with US geography)? Condor70 (talk) 06:38, 15 August 2014 (UTC)

The 105 year old comment is probably based on the earliest storm shown on the map being 1915 Galveston; you'd have to be 105 years old to remember that one. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Would/Should we add a section or modify what we have so we can rate by the more familiar categories (CAT 1, CAT 2, etc)? 01:03, 17 August 2014 (UTC)

Would it help understand the comic? 18:23, 9 December 2014 (UTC)

The Weather Channel reported on this comic as if people were actually asked about which hurricanes they remember. I'm not even certain TWC understood its provenance. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I propose we remove much of the table, and provide the name of the hurricane the year, and a link to a reference to the hurricane if we can find one. 18:23, 9 December 2014 (UTC)

All of the hurricanes are linked on Wikipedia, and the remarks are arbitrary facts pulled from that. There is no standard as to what kind of remark or interesting fact should be left. Some just link to the wikipedia article, which already happens in the initial listing, while others tried to find a cool or key fact, but this is the least fun part of completing this list especially when there is no uniformity to this section. I propose removing the remarks point as it's the most subjective and least scientific and least important aspect of the list. If people want to read more about the storm, they can click the link by the name. Anyone agree or disagree? 4jonah (talk) 17:26, 23 December 2014 (UTC)

I have a followup thought - just make remarks 2 figures: number killed and cost of damage. That's pretty empirical and would make for simple columns. This allows it to be filtered by most deadly and most costly

I'm giving total casualties. The Wiki pages sometimes say x deaths direct, y deaths indirect. I'm giving a unified total otherwise it gets too confusing. 4jonah (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

There were duplicate entries for 1926 such as, in a single column, "1926 "IIII/II." In addition to being out of sequence, no other year did this so I have each one it's own listing. We should remove the remarks section. Does anyone attend this page anymore?4jonah (talk) 18:34, 24 December 2014 (UTC)

This table has more listed than the map does. Are we going to have 2 separate, inconsistent lists? Or is the table going to have only what's on the map?4jonah (talk) 21:18, 26 December 2014 (UTC)
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