Hurricane Names: Oddballs on the Lists

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:

  • Gaston

  • Hermine

  • Igor

  • Otto

  • Shary

  • Virginie

  • On next year’s list:

  • Gert

  • Ophelia

  • Philippe

  • Rina

  • Tammy

  • On upcoming lists:

  • Bertha

  • Beryl

  • Chantal

  • Dolly

  • Fay

  • Florence

  • Helene

  • Nana

  • Olga

  • Wilfred

  • 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:

  • Beulah (1967)

  • Fifi (1974)

  • Floyd (1999)

  • Georges (1998)

  • Hortense (1996)

  • Ike (2008)

  • Ione (1955)

  • Isidore (2002)

  • Klaus (1990)

  • Opal (1995)

  • Wilma (2005)

  • 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.

    About the Author

    Elisabeth Wilborn

    Elisabeth Wilborn

    Elisabeth Wilborn can be found at her online homes You Can't Call It "It" and The Itsy Factor, and she has part-time residency at Nameberry and Apartment Therapy. In the real world she also enjoys painting, cooking, and raising her two little girls on their farm in Texas. \n