The weather is often a major conversation piece or icebreaker. When people don’t know what else to say, they bitch about the heat or the cold or the rain or the snow. But severe weather is far more than an inconvenience and can mean the difference between life and death.
- Related: How much snow will I get in the next 24 hours? Check out the interactive snowfall map for Massachusetts
Take thunderstorms. There are approximately 100,000 thunderstorms in the United States each year, and 1 in 10 is considered severe. They cause flash floods, spark fires, and hail, killing more people each year than tornadoes, lightning, or hurricanes. Storms are also getting more intense. Flash floods rip through dried-up water beds, city streets and sewers at breakneck speeds. But in developed urban areas, rain falls on impervious surfaces like sidewalks, parking lots, and driveways. With no land to absorb it, the water inundates streets, culverts, and underpasses. Hailstorms are expected to become more dangerous as the planet continues to overheat. Researchers predict that climate change will mean fewer days with hail but an increase in the size of hailstones, making them more destructive and deadly.
Stacker went in search of the places in the United States that have the worst weather. Using data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Stacker sorted through a decade of major and minor storm events from 2010 through 2020, weighted them all equally, and produced a list of the worst-weather counties in each state.
You think your weather is bad? Take a look at the worst weather in New England, starting with Massachusetts.
Massachusetts: Middlesex County
– Severe Weather Events (2010-2020): 470 (42.7 per year)- Most Common Events:— #1. Thunderstorm winds (23.6 per year) — #2. Flood (9.2 per year) — #3. Hail (6.4 per year)
Middlesex County in Massachusetts, which is essentially Boston, is prone to storms called Nor’easters, which sweep up the Atlantic Seaboard and blow in with strong northeasterly winds. The gusts are often stronger than in hurricanes. Depending on whether they arrive over land or over water, North Easters can bring torrential rain, flooding, heavy snow and huge waves, as well as thunder and lightning.
Connecticut: Litchfield County
– Severe Weather Events (2010-2020): 274 (24.9 per year)- Most Common Events:— #1. Thunderstorm winds (15.7 per year) — #2. Hail (4.6 per year) — #3. Flash flood (1.6 per year)
Picturesque, hilly, and forested Litchfield County is a popular day-trip destination in northwestern Connecticut. The worst of the weather comes in the form of thunderstorms, which usually turn off power to residents due to the abundance of trees in the area. Experts say the area needs to be modernized with smart meters, underground cables and micro-grids that can isolate areas of blackout and utility.
New Hampshire: Grafton County
– Severe Weather Events (2010-2020): 330 (30.0 per year)- Most Common Events:— #1. Thunderstorm wind (16.4 per year) — #2. Flood (5.7 per year) — #3. Flash flood (4.5 per year)
Storms can take a serious toll in Grafton County, home of White Mountain National Forest. In the summer of 2020, torrential rain, thunder and lightning forced a local hospital, the region’s only trauma center, to cancel surgeries and other procedures when rainwater flooded its operating rooms.
Maine: Aroostook County
– Severe Weather Events (2010-2020): 410 (37.3 per year)- Most Common Events:— #1. Thunderstorm winds (24.4 per year) — #2. Hail (7.8 per year) — #3. Flash flood (2.3 per year)
Aroostook County, which borders Canada in northern Maine, is larger than the state of Connecticut and is known for its potato crop. With about 145 rainy days a year, it’s one of the wettest places in the state. It’s also one of the snowiest, with an average annual snowfall exceeding 94 inches in a snow season lasting seven months.
Vermont: Bennington County
– Severe Weather Events (2010-2020): 245 (22.3 per year)- Most Common Events:— #1. Thunderstorm wind (4.8 per year) — #2. Winter weather (4.2 per year) — #3. Winter Storm (2.5 per year)
Bennington County, in southern Vermont, gets an average of 65 inches of snow each year. That’s more than double the US average of 28 inches. The average daily low temperature in January in Bennington is 12 degrees Fahrenheit.
Rhode Island: Providence County
– Severe Weather Events (2010-2020): 136 (12.4 per year)- Most Common Events:— #1. Thunderstorm wind (5.6 per year) — #2. Flood (3.5 per year) — #3. Hail (1.6 per year)
Hurricanes pose the greatest flooding hazard in Providence County, but the Fox Point Hurricane Barrier is said to have significantly reduced the risk. Completed in 1966, the barrier 1 mile south of downtown Providence is designed to protect against coastal storm flooding. The 700-foot concrete barrier spans the Providence River, with gates designed to block floodwater entry when closed.