Hurricane Names: Oddballs on the Lists

Reflecting upon recent hurricanes, Nameberry’s newest intern Deanna Cullen delved into “the eye of the storm,” so to speak, and returned with a flood of information on the hurricane naming process.

Mother Nature gives birth to a whole set of little terrors each hurricane season, so it’s only natural that we have a set of names by which to reprimand them- six sets of names, actually.

You don’t have to be a Weather Channel enthusiast to know that hurricane names are, by design, short, distinctive male and female names, listed in alphabetical order each year . What you may not know, however, is who is responsible for naming the hurricanes and why odd names like Gaston and Virginie made the 2010 list.

Since 1979, there have been six lists in rotation for Atlantic hurricane names, each established and maintained by an international committee of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

A sanity check for all of you who may have thought “I swear I remember a hurricane with that name before…:” You’re right. Each list is repeated every seventh year, so this year’s list will reappear in 2016.

An exception to the rule. If a storm is so deadly or catastrophic that its continued use would be inappropriate for reasons of sensitivity, the offending name is stricken from the list and another name is selected by the WMO committee to replace it. Katrina, Floyd, and Ike? All gone.

So how are new names decided upon by the WMO? Just like any proud mother and father, a lot of thought goes into naming a newborn.

The committee takes into consideration the public’s response toward a name.  While a child with a complicated name may become exasperated by teachers’ constant mispronunciation of their names, a complicated hurricane name could have more catastrophic consequences. Thus, hurricane names should be easy to recall and on the shorter side.

The popularity of the first letter in a name is also a factor in the naming process. Current lists exclude Q, U, X, Y, and Z due to the dearth of names starting with those letters (Though hurricane names from 1958 included Udele, Virgy, Xrae, Yurith, and Zorna.)

The committee also considers ethnic names. Atlantic Ocean hurricanes, much like many of our country’s immigrants, have ties with European nations. Thus, the names may be French, Spanish, and English, in lieu of the  major languages bordering the Atlantic Ocean.

Here are some hurricane names that really stand out (and haven’t made it into the Top 1000 in the last ten years), whether their respective hurricanes have been but a blip on the radar or otherwise.

On this year’s list:

On next year’s list:

On upcoming lists:

Perhaps best to avoid these retired names that are so rare (again, not in the Top 1000) they might immediately call to mind the destructive hurricanes that made them infamous:

And if you’ve exhausted this list and found none you like, do as the WMO does when it runs out of names for a particularly hard-hitting season – start with the Greek alphabet! Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and so on.

DEANNA CULLEN is a recent graduate of Fairfield University with a degree in English/Creative Writing. She currently works as copy editor for The Hudson Reporter, and is a freelance contributing writer for The Hoboken Reporter, International Watch Magazine, and, along with interning for nameberry.

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10 Responses to “Hurricane Names: Oddballs on the Lists”

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Vikki Says:

October 15th, 2010 at 9:45 am

As a resident of SC, I think you should include Hugo on the list. It hit Sept 21-22, 1989 and until Andrew a few years later, it was the most destructive hurricane on record. And the name is pretty cool too.

I was 11 years old. I lived 35 miles from the coast of SC and that night (Hugo made landfall at midnight on the 22nd) remains the scariest night of my life. We could hear the tornadoes whipping up behind the house. Had SC been a more populated state, it could have been even more destructive. It was a Category 4.

Anyway, that is my hurricane story. Other notable names that have hit the SC coast.

Hazel (I like this one)

katybug Says:

October 15th, 2010 at 10:36 am

I immediately thought “where’s Andrew?” also, but I think that the post is targeting names outside the top 1000, so it wouldn’t be included. There are some lovely names that are retired hurricane names, like Camille, Alicia, and Elena. Here’s the full list:

Mystighost Says:

October 15th, 2010 at 11:21 am

Great post, and I love hurricane names! I have to admit, there is still something intriguing about siblings named Katrina, Camille, and Andrew…or maybe I’m just weird like that.

I am surprised to see that Betsy did not make the list of retire hurricane names. It must be more popular in other places than it is here. Around here, though, this name still says deadly storm, though.

S Says:

October 15th, 2010 at 7:43 pm

Interesting topic. I would hesitate on using a name like Katrina, though. I knew a girl by that name who was picked on after Hurricane Katrina hit. Some of these are less heavily associated and fair-game IMO.

Typhoons have been given names for 10 years now. Here’s a list of their names for those interested:

Persephone Says:

October 16th, 2010 at 4:15 am

I will never stop loving Ione – I live in Australia so I had no idea there even was a Hurricane Ione!

Bella Says:

October 16th, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Ione will never be off the list for me! 🙂

Welcome to Nameberry Ms. Cullen!


Bella <3

Bella Says:

October 16th, 2010 at 1:18 pm

Oh, and great illustration!

Jen Says:

October 16th, 2010 at 2:11 pm

I’d be more inclined to name pets after devestating hurricanes than people. Although, I imagine that by the time a child gets to ‘teasing age’, the set that is teasing her will not remember/know that there was such a thing as hurricane Camille or Andrew. Unless you live in an area devestated by these storms, the name is probably not the primary association after a few years.

That said, I’d still shy away from naming a child Katrina, just because that one still gets a lot of press time.

Leslie Owen Says:

May 7th, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Here on the Gulf Coast we joked about the bump of baby Ivans, but in the six years (almost seven) since Ivan, I’ve not met one.

That ought to put naming kids after hurricanes to rest. There are still many refugees from Katrina in our area and it’s a name that’s no longer used. All the Katrinas I know are way older than the hurricane.

Thank goodness they don’t name tornadoes!

Demi Says:

May 20th, 2011 at 8:04 pm

Personally, I don’t think that a hurricane should be able to retire a baby name. I really like the name Katrina (like Katrina Van Tassel from Sleepy Hollow). And I don’t really think of the hurricane when I hear that name.

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