What’s in a name? If you’re a hurricane, quite a bit. Let’s take a look at what goes into picking hurricane names as we close out our hurricane focus for this week of National Preparedness Month.
1. When it Began
The National Hurricane Center started the practice of officially naming hurricanes in 1953. Before then, forecasters would name a storm after it hit, typically naming it associating the name with where and when the storm hit. Some examples include the “Long Island Express” from 1938 or the Labor Day Hurricane which hit the Florida Keys on, yep, Labor Day, 1935.
2. A Little History
The practice started in the 1900s with Australian weather forecaster, C. Wragge who tracked tropical storm systems near Australia. At first, he used letters from the alphabet to identify storms. He later started using names of South Sea Island girls. But when the Australian government refused to support his meteorological efforts, he began using the names of politicians he disliked.
3. “In honor of …”
In the 1940s, military forecasters began “unofficially” naming storms after their girlfriends and wives. Which led to the eventual formalization of hurricane naming convention in 1950.
4. A Storm of Controversy
Within a year, the use of women’s names to label storms caused a stir as some newspapers opined that using women’s names was problematic. And in 1955, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives put forth the idea that by using a female name, people wouldn’t take the storms seriously. Nothing changed until 1978 when the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) changed the policy.
Today, these storms are named alphabetically and alternate between men’s and women’s names.
5. Did You Know?
Names can be ‘retired’ if a storm has been particularly big or destructive. Some retired names you may recognize include: Katrina, Andrew, Mitch and Sandy.
But a Hurricane by Any Other Name …
No matter the name, a hurricane is not something to be underestimated. Even if it’s named after your favorite teacher from kindergarten, you still need to make sure your emergency preparedness plan has you ready when the sweet-named storm comes knocking.