Sunday, June 1, 2014

What's in a (hurricane) name?

When I was a kid hurricanes had female names, giving rise to a joke I read in Boy's Life: "Why do they name hurricanes after women? Because there's no such thing as a himacane."

This changed in 1978 with the first male names used for Pacific tropical storms and the following year for Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico storms. Bud became the first masculine Pacific tropical storm but never reached typhoon status. He only lasted three days before being downgraded to a tropical disturbance, a veritable girly-man storm.

Hurricane Bob in 1979 was the first testosterone-laced storm on this side of the Panama Canal. Not to be confused with his son, Hurricane Bob of 1991, the elder Bob did, nonetheless, pack a punch as he landed at Grand Isle, Louisiana (pronounced Looz-e-anna by non-New Englanders) as a Category 1 cyclone with sustained winds of 75mph.

Since then, tropical storms have included both male and female names which are on a six-year rotating schedule. The most destructive storms' names are retired so as not to confuse historians, such as the younger Bob and Katrina (2005). Of the 53 Atlantic/Gulf names retired since equal opportunity naming started, 28 have been male.

This year's Atlantic lineup has a few interesting twists:
Arthur - "A" names rarely turn into devastating storms because they are early in the season, but Hurricanes Andrew and Alicia prove that any of these storms can be dangerous.
Bertha - She sounds like a big storm. Would you rather be facing Hurricane Tina or Hurricane Bertha?
Cristobal - Columbus' Spanish name. Seems like a natural to wander into the West Indies.
Dolly - What can I say? Singer or sheep?
Edouard - Widely known for his important role in the transition from realism to impressionism.
Fay - What was I saying about Tina?
Gonzalo - Googling his name turns up a lengthy list of soccer players. Definitely a Gulf storm.
Hanna - Could be the first hurricane to make landfall in Butte, Montana.
Isaias - First name of the president/dictator of Eritrea, the birthplace of the most recent Boston Marathon winner.
Josephine - Napoleon Bonaparte's main squeeze, at least until she went on a spending spree while he was busy trying to conquer Egypt.
Kyle - Kyle Field is an 83,000 capacity stadium at Texas A&M. The area is served by TV station KYLE. Definitely a Texas-bound storm.
Laura - A common name that could be infamous, like Diana, Irene or Sandy.
Marco - Polo.
Nana - This is what our grandchildren call my wife. Is this really a name?
Omar - O=Oh, as in "Oh my!" Mar=Sea in Spanish. Fitting.
Paulette - Like Josephine, this is really a man's name, like Bobette, Davidine, and Hankaphine.
Rene - Guy or girl? Why not Hurricane Pat?
Sally - See Laura.
Teddy - Could be the largest hurricane ever.
Vicky - Is this a coincidence?
Wilfred - We'll never get to Wilfred. That's why they picked it.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Randy a great piece on Hurricanes. I would like to tell you a little about a Hurricane with no name . It just was the Hurricane of 1938. I would be 4 at the time and had just spent close to one year in the Boston Children's Hospital overcoming several child hood sickness at the time. It just so happened that that would be the day I would be released to come home to my family who I had only seen through the glass windows of my hospital room. My Uncle would come to pick me up that day to take me home. Since I did not have the strength to walk on my own yet, he parked his new car under the massive tree in front of the rented house on Dorr Street in Roxbury we lived in at the time. My Uncle placed me on his shoulders as the howling winds were so strong I could not stand up. As he turned around to head towards the house and with me hanging over his shoulders and just before we got to the front steps of the house a gust of began to blow so hard that it snapped the tree in half and completely flattened my Uncles car to the ground. Had we not arrived when we did, I often wonder what may have been another outcome. It was a day in my life that I have never forgotten and has given me an in site into the dangers of Hurricane with out names as well as with names. You need to smile sometimes, when life gives you a message and you survive.

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