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 Remarks
1915 1915 II LA TX OK AR 145 mph 940 mbar Hit hardest along the Texas coastline near Galveston.
1915 1915 VI LA MS AL TN KY WV PA 145 mph 931 mbar Hit hardest in the areas near New Orleans.
1916 1916 IV SC NC 115 mph 960 mbar Caused 7 deaths and $100,000 in damages in South Carolina, with 80 deaths and $15-$20 million in damages in North Carolina.
1916 1916 VI TX 135 mph 932 mbar Hit hardest along the west side of Texas's coastline.
1918 1918 I LA 120 mph 955 mbar Hit hardest in western Louisiana.
1921 1921 VI FL 140 mph 941 mbar Hit hardest in Tampa Bay.
1926 1926 I FL 140 mph 967 mbar Hit hardest in Nassau and a small area of north-eastern Florida.
1926 1926 III / II TX LA AL / GA 115 mph / 140 mph 955 mbar / 967 mbar 1926 II did not hit land where indicated on the map. What is labelled "1926 II" is most likely Hurricane III which did make land around Lousiana but affected the entire coast line from Mobile Alabama. Hit hardest at the end of the Florida panhandle. Louisiana
1926 1926 VII / III FL AL MS LA / TX LA AL 150 mph / 115 mph 930 mbar / 955 mbar 1926 III did not hit Miami as indicated on the map, instead it hit west Louisiana and Texas. What is labelled "1926 III" is most likely hurricane seven instead. It the Miami area the hardest. The costliest hurricane in US history.
1928 1928 IV FL SC NC 160 mph ≤ 929 mbar Okeechobee
1932 1932 II 150 mph 935 mbar Freeport
1933 1933 VI 140 mph 940 mbar Hit hardest along the western side of Chesapeake Bay.
1935 1935 III 185 mph 892 mbar Hit hardest on Labor Day along two areas of western Florida. The 1935 hurricane is notable for being the strongest hurricane in American history.
1938 1938 VI 160 mph 940 mbar Hit hardest around Long Island and Connecticut, New England. Although Sandy caused more monetary damage to the New Jersey/NYC area, the 1938 hurricane was more powerful and resulted in far more deaths.
1940 1940 III 100 mph 972 mbar South Carolina
1941 1941 II 125 mph 942 mbar Texas
1942 1942 III 115 mph 950 mbar Matagorda
1944 1944 VII 145 mph 933 mbar Great Atlantic hurricane
1944 1944 XII 145 mph 937 mbar Cuba–Florida
1946 1946 VI FL NC 100 mph 977 mbar Florida Became extra-tropical over NC
1947 1947 IX FL GA SN NC 105 mph 965 mbar King
1949 1949 II FL GA to NH 130 mph 954 mbar Florida
1950 Easy 125 mph 958 mbar
1954 Carol 115 mph 957 mbar
1954 Edna 120 mph ≤ 954 mbar
1954 Hazel 150 mph ≤ 937 mbar
1955 Connie 145 mph 936 mbar
1955 Diane 120 mph ≤ 969 mbar
1957 Audrey 145 mph 945 mbar
1958 Helene 135 mph 934 mbar
1959 Gracie 140 mph 950 mbar
1960 Donna 160 mph 932 mbar
1961 Carla 175 mph 931 mbar
1961 Esther 145 mph 927 mbar Labelled incorrectly as 1951. The first cyclone to be discovered using satellite.
1964 Dora FL 130 mph 942 mbar The first hurricane-strength tropical cyclone on record to make landfall over the extreme northeast coast of Florida in the almost 80 years of record keeping. It killed five people.
1964 Hilda FL TX LA GA MS NC SC AL TN VA MD DE 150 mph 941 mbar Most intense of season, lasting 7 days and killing 38
1965 Betsy FL LA MS AR TE MO 155 mph 941 mbar Tropical Cyclone
1966 Alma 125 mph 970 mbar
1967 Beulah 160 mph ≤ 923 mbar
1969 Camille 175 mph 900 mbar
1970 Celia 125 mph 945 mbar
1972 Agnes 85 mph 977 mbar
1974 Carmen 150 mph 928 mbar
1975 Eloise 125 mph 955 mbar
1979 David 175 mph 924 mbar
1979 Frederic 135 mph 943 mbar
1980 Allen 190 mph 899 mbar
1984 Diana 130 mph 949 mbar
1985 Elena 125 mph 953 mbar
1985 Glora 145 mph 919 mbar
1985 Kate 120 mph 954 mbar
1989 Hugo 160 mph 918 mbar
1991 Bob 115 mph 950 mbar
1992 Andrew 175 mph 922 mbar
1995 Opal 150 mph 916 mbar
1996 Fran 120 mph 946 mbar
1998 Bonnie 115 mph 954 mbar
1999 Floyd FL to ME 155 mph 921 mbar Bad weather over Florida.
2002 Lili LA 145 mph 938 mbar
2003 Isabel NC to PA 165 mph 915 mbar
2004 Charley 150 mph 941 mbar
2004 Frances 145 mph 935 mbar
2004 Gaston 75 mph 985 mbar
2004 Ivan 165 mph 910 mbar
2004 Jeanne 120 mph 950 mbar
2005 Dennis 150 mph 930 mbar
2005 Katrina 175 mph 902 mbar
2005 Rita 180 mph 895 mbar
2008 Gustav 155 mph 941 mbar
2008 Ike 145 mph 935 mbar
2011 Irene 120 mph 942 mbar
2011 Lee 60 mph 986 mbar Not a hurricane, but "just" a tropical storm.
2012 Sandy 115 mph 940 mbar Hitting the New York City and New Jersey area with devastating effects for the Jersey Shore area.

[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)
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