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A storm by any other name…



Hurricane Zeta Oct. 27 (source: NOAA / NHC)

Katrina. Sandy. Andrew. Camille. Maria. Ike.

Most people will recognize these names as something more than just a list of popular baby names. Saying these names names brings to mind devastating hurricanes.

With hurricane season officially beginning June 1 and forecasters predicting this to be an above average season, some may be wondering just how hurricane names are selected.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), based in Geneva, Switzerland, is tasked with choosing hurricane names. They have strict guidelines to follow and the lists are generated years in advance.

The practice of using actual names began in 1953. Before then, forecasters referred to storms by location. For example, they may have said something like “the storm 350 miles southeast of Miami.” This was an obvious problem and proved quite confusing because the storm’s location was constantly moving. This method also proved problematic when more than one storm was going on at the same time.

They began using female names in 1954 began incorporating male names in 1979. Currently, the names alternate between male and female.

The names are alphabetical in order, each new storm gets the next name on the current year’s list.

The letters Q, U, X, Y or Z are omitted because of the lack of usable names that begin with those letters.

Not all of the names are automatically associated with hurricanes, because tropical storms are named when they have sustained winds of 39 mph. It doesn’t officially become a hurricane until the winds reach 74 mph.

If all 21 names are used in a year, the WMO also creates a supplemental list of names that will be used after the ‘W’ storm.

Prior to last year’s storm season, the Greek alphabet was used if the primary list was exhausted, using such names as Alpha, Beta, Gamma, etc. .

The WMO stopped using the Greek alphabet “because it creates a distraction from the communication of hazard and storm warnings and is potentially confusing,” the WMO said in a statement to USA Today.

For those hurricanes that prove to be deadly or especially destructive, the names are “retired” and are not allowed to ever be used again.

The list of names that will be used for the 2021 season are:

  • Ana
  • Bill
  • Claudette
  • Danny
  • Elsa
  • Fred
  • Grace
  • Henri
  • Ida
  • Julian
  • Kate
  • Larry
  • Mindy
  • Nicholas
  • Odette
  • Peter
  • Rose
  • Sam
  • Teresa
  • Victor
  • Wanda

The supplemental list for this year is:

  • Adria
  • Braylen
  • Caridad
  • Deshawn
  • Emery
  • Foster
  • Gemma
  • Heath
  • Isla
  • Jacobus
  • Kenzie
  • Lucio
  • Makayla
  • Nolan
  • Orlanda
  • Pax
  • Ronin
  • Sophie
  • Tayshaun
  • Viviana
  • Will
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