Names have an incredible power to evoke memories of people, places, and events. Often we make these connections through people we know or places we have been but sometimes names can carry even deeper meaning. Names like Ike, Katrina, Hugo and Andrew are etched into our national memory because of the chaos that is associated with them.
Each of these names represents a massive hurricane that caused damage on an incredible scale. We especially remember the retired names of hurricanes as being powerful and destructive. Who could ever hear the name Katrina and not think of the storm that struck New Orleans? What about the recent Hurricane Ike that damaged Galveston and Huston? Hurricanes affect people who are far from the coast as well. Ike made its way north and brought hurricane force winds to Ohio and left many without power for days.
Hurricanes hit the United States on a consistent basis and in recent memory, they have created a great deal of destruction and devastation. We remember the storms by name and rarely do we forget them once we have witnessed the evidence of their sheer power.
Have you ever wondered why hurricanes have names in the first place? We could give them numbers and connect them with the current year somehow. This could be another means of identifying hurricanes. How do the hurricanes get the names and who chooses what names to give them?
Hurricanes are given names for a couple of important reasons. We need to remember that hurricanes travel across the Atlantic Ocean and often threaten the lives of those who might be in their path. The naming system was created to not only identify the hurricane but also to help tract that storm as it moves across the ocean.
The names become important because there can be multiple hurricanes develop at the same time and be located in generally the same area. Without names, it would become difficult to track and identify each individual storm. The names provide a basis for the important work of research and prevention. The research allows us to better understand the nature of hurricanes and see how we might better prepare for them in the future. Prevention helps us to alert those who will be in the path of the storm and give them appropriate time to evacuate.
Naming was once done by the closest birthday of a patron saint of the church. So, if the storm happened on or near Saint Stephen’s Day, the storm would be named Stephen. A second approach was used for many years that only used the names of women. In 1979, the system added the names of men to the list. Now the list of names alternate between male and female names. Once a hurricane becomes especially destructive the name is retired and never used again. There will never again be another Hurricane Katrina.
Hurricane names can be rather unusual. Here are just a few samples from the past several years. Alberto, Bertha, Claudette and the list goes on. The names are chosen from English, French and Spanish. These are the main languages of countries most often affected by hurricanes.
When a tropical storm develops in the Atlantic Ocean, it is given a name. The names are assigned to each of these storms by the National Hurricane Center. Tropical storms can develop into hurricanes and then move through the Atlantic. Giving each storm a specific name and designation will assist us in the work of prevention. Tracking the storm becomes important in determining the strength of the storm, the size of the storm, and the path of the storm.
The names for the hurricanes are selected from a list created by the National Hurricane Center. The names come from a pool selected from English, Spanish and French because these are the three most common languages in the area most effected by tropical storms or hurricanes. There are six lists of names generated for a six year span of time. For example, the list of hurricane names for 1994, were used again in 2000.
As the tropical storms begin to form, names are assigned in alphabetical order. The first storm would receive the name that started with the letter A, the second would be assigned the name starting with the letter B and so on down through the entire list of names. The letters Q, U, X, Y, and Z are never used. Once the letters are exhausted, letters of the Greek alphabet are used to name the tropical storms.