What’s in a hurricane name?

Castles in the Sand

Every year at this time we steady our nerves and go forward into hurricane season which tortures us from June 1 to Nov. 30. Not all storms during hurricane season are actually hurricanes; some of them are tropical storms, which can be just as deadly. But what about the names we give to these storms? Have you ever thought about how this happens?

First of all, a tropical system is named when it maintains sustained wind speeds of 39 miles per hour at which point it is officially a tropical storm. Many named systems never reach hurricane status, which is 74 miles per hour. Hurricanes and tropical storms began being named in 1953 in an effort to more easily identify specific storms when there are two or more systems active at the same time.

The storm names were originally only female until 1978 when male names were added. Names are in alphabetical order excluding Q, U, X, Y and Z and alternate between female and male names. Names are recycled every six years, and storm names that were particularly deadly or costly are retired and replaced. Thankfully, we’ll never have another Irma.

This year the names for the Atlantic Ocean storms are a repeat of 2013, the names are Andrea, Barry, Chantal, Dorian, Erin, Fernand, Gabrielle, Humberto, Imelda, Jerry, Karen, Lorenzo, Melissa, Nestor, Olga, Pablo, Rebekah, Sebastien, Tanya, Van and Wendy.

The first forecast for this hurricane season from Colorado State University is five storms with two of them reaching major hurricane strength. This is based on the cooler than normal sea surface in the tropical Atlantic Ocean providing less fuel for tropical cyclone formation and intensification. None of this, however, should encourage you to let your guard down; one of these two major hurricanes could easily have our name on it.

It’s time to assemble a hurricane kit that will help you if you stay in your home without power and also be portable if you have to evacuate. You should include three days’ worth of non-perishable food and water per person, a first aid kit, personal hygiene items, flashlights and batteries, a battery operated radio, cash and important documents (insurance policies and photos of your home, vehicles and vessels). Additional supplies can include a manual can opener, matches, books, games, pet supplies, coolers and ice packs and, most important of all, an evacuation plan for you and your family. For the plan, you should compile a list of hotels to evacuate to, as well as those that accept pets.

Batten down the hatches in your home by covering windows with shutters or wood, trim trees prior to storms, reinforce garage doors and bring in outdoor furniture and anything else that can blow into windows or siding. Tie down your boat with extra lines and remove canvas and sails that can unravel in a storm. Be prepared for the loss of power for a few days or longer. Make sure your cars have full tanks of gas and cell phones are fully charged. Fill bathtubs prior to a storm so there is water available for toilets in case water mains are impacted and again get some cash since ATM machines and banks will likely also be out of power.

Finally, my personal hurricane preparedness strategy is to not have a lot of food in the refrigerator, particularly raw frozen food. If a storm is coming, cook anything you can prior to the storm. It will last in coolers for a longer period of time and you don’t have to worry about rotting food in the refrigerator if you need to evacuate. Those of us who have lived in Florida for a long time are pros when it comes to hurricane season, however, it can never hurt to remind ourselves what needs to be done. Let’s hope we never get to Wendy, and she lives to be reinstated in six years. Stay safe.

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