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How do hurricanes get their names?

Hurricanes have been called household names since 1953, as a way to help experts effectively communicate about the storm

SHARE How do hurricanes get their names?
Three people walk through a storm while an umbrella blows in their face.

People walk on the Ballast Point Pier ahead of Hurricane Ian, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Ian’s most damaging winds have begun hitting Florida’s southwest coast as the storm approaches landfall.

Chris O’Meara, Associated Press

Nearly every year, hurricanes receive a specific name, making that name forever infamous and tied to a catastrophic event like Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico or Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

Why do hurricanes have household names?

According to geology.com, using more commonplace names makes it easier for meteorologists, experts and government officials to communicate about the storm and how residents should prepare for it.

The naming system has been in place since 1953 and start in alphabetical order, leaving out names for “Q,” “U,” “X,” “Y” and “Z.”

How do hurricanes get their names?

At first, the storms were exclusively given female names, partly to continue “the tradition of sailors naming ships after the gender mostly absent on them,” The New Yorker reported.

After 26 years, the naming convention started switching from masculine to feminine names between hurricanes in 1979.

Decisions about the names falls to the Hurricane Committee at the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization during an annual meeting, per Live Science.

The catalog of names is chosen based on names that would feel familiar to the specific region experiencing hurricanes.

“I think naming, in a strange kind of way, brands the storm in a real-time capacity for more effective messaging, but also gives a longer-term reference point for people to understand when they hear comparable type storms that may be coming along,” James Marshall Shepherd, former president of the American Meteorological Society, told Live Science.

Why do so many well-known hurricanes start with the letter ‘I?’

Since the naming conventions go in alphabetical order, why does it feel like there are so any memorable hurricanes with “I” names? Some of the most memorable examples include Ivan, Irene, Irma and now Idalia.

It comes down to timing — the “I” names coming up “tend to coincide near the typical peak of the hurricane season between mid-August and the end of September,” The Washington Post reported.

Are hurricane names reused?

Hurricane names can be used again, but if the storm is particularly violent and memorable, the name is retired forever in infamy, per geology.com

There are 14 names beginning with the letter “I” that have been retired, which makes up about 15% of the entire list, according to the National Hurricane Center.