Naming Tropical Storms and Hurricanes

Since a hurricane can last for a week or more, and there can be more than one storm at a time, weather forecasters give each storm a name so there is no confusion when talking about a particular storm. Each year, the first tropical storm of the season is given a name that starts with A, the second storm is given a name that starts with a B, and so on. Women's and men's names are alternated. The name lists are made up by meteorologists at the World Meteorological Organization.

There are different name lists for Atlantic and eastern Pacific tropical storms. Storms are named as soon as the winds are 39 mph or more. The names of very destructive storms (like Andrew, Camille, and Hugo) are retired (they are never used again).

Until late in the 1940s, hurricanes were not officially named (hurricane forecasting was then in its infancy). Only the most severe hurricanes were given names, and they were often named for the place they did the most damage (like the Galveston Hurricane of 1900) or the time they hit (like the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935).

US meteorologists working in the Pacific Ocean began naming tropical cyclones during World War 2, when they often had to track multiple storms. They gave each storm a name in order to distinguish the cyclones more quickly than listing their positions.

The first US named hurricane (unofficially named) was George, which hit in 1947. The next one given a name was Hurricane Bess (named for the First Lady of the USA, Bess Truman, in 1949). Various naming conventions were used until the use of women's names was adopted in 1953; the names used that year were: Alice, Barbara, Carol, Dolly, Edna, Florence, Gilda, Hazel, Irene, Jill, Katherine, Lucy, Mabel, Norma, Orpha, Patsy, Queen, Rachel, Susie, Tina, Una, Vicky, and Wallis.

Between 1953 and 1979, only women's names were used to name tropical storms. Since 1979, men's and women's names are alternated as names.