Hurricane Naming

By Maria Cypher

October 25, 2005

With hurricanes much in the news lately, I’ve been thinking about what it must be like to share the name of a particularly devastating storm. I speak as the parent of “Hurricane Camille,” who at age almost-2 does indeed leave a path of destruction in her wake. (Camille, incidentally, was the second most intense U.S. hurricane on record — one of only three class 5 storms to ever hit land. And yes, this did give my mother-in-law pause….)

Turns out Atlantic hurricane names are selected by the World Meteorological Organization, and the same list repeats every six years. The list only changes when a storm is so devastating that future use of its name would appear insensitive. So we’ll never again see a Charley, Frances, Ivan, or Jeanne — all 2004 hurricane names that have been retired.

How then will the Katrinas and Ritas of the world fair? My guess is that they’ll be affected far more than the Andrews and Charleys. Since the latter names are much more common, their countless non-storm associations dilute the impact of a single, negative event, however promiment. In selecting distinctive baby names, parents always run the risk that their child’s rare namesake will be an ax murderer or famous porn star.

So to all the Beryls and Ernestos out there, may the second and fifth storms of ’06 be mild and unmemorable.

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