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Hurricane Names: How are Hurricanes Named and What Hurricane Names Have Been Retired?

Updated on September 5, 2012

Hurricanes have been given names for hundreds of years. The purpose in naming storms was for easy reference when giving warning messages. Before our current system of naming storms, people had their own conventions for labeling storms. For instance, in the Caribbean, residents would once name storms after Saints from the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar.

At one time, storms were given a label based on their latitude and longitude. These names however were difficult for most people to remember and were prone to error, so military meteorologists began giving them women’s names. This practice worked so much better that it has continued. Tropical cyclones are given names once they reach tropical storm status (wind speeds of 74 mph) and the name carries on when or if they reach hurricane status. In 1979, meteorologists began using men’s names as well. Here is how the current system of naming hurricanes works:

Each year, 21 names are selected with each name starting with a different letter of the alphabet (except for Q, U, X, Y, and Z which are not used). In odd years, the odd number storms are given women’s names and in even years, the odd number storms are given men’s names. If there happens to be more than 21 storms in one given year, then subsequent storms are given Greek names, such as alpha, beta, gamma, delta, and so on. The lists of hurricane names are maintained by the World Meteorological organization and the lists are reused every 6 years.

Some hurricane names are retired because they caused so much death and costly that it would be insensitive to reuse those names. Some notable names that have been retired are:

Andrew (1992)

Camille (1969)

Fran (1996)

Hazel (1954)

Hugo (1989)

Katrina (2005)

The World Meterological Organization maintains lists of tropical cyclone names (hurricanes and typhoons) worldwide and the names are selected to be familiar to that particular region. Lists are available on their website.


World Meteorological Organization:


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    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 5 years ago from The Caribbean

      I like this hub also. Thanks for the details on how hurricanes are named. Voted Up and Interesting.