Natural and Man-Made Disasters


How long have hurricanes been given names?

The practice of naming hurricanes has a long history. According to the National Hurricane Center, for hundreds of years Caribbean storms were named according to the saint whose liturgical day it was when the storm hit. This became confusing when hurricanes struck on the same day but in different years, leading to such references as Hurricane San Felipe the Second. During World War II, the U.S. military began naming storms, giving them women’s names. In 1951 the American weather services began naming Atlantic Ocean storms according to a phonetic alphabet (Able, Baker, Charley, etc.). Just a few years later forecasters returned to using women’s names, and a new list of names was created for each Atlantic hurricane season (June 1–November 30). Storms in some areas of the Pacific began being named in 1959, and by 1964, all regions of the Pacific were using the naming convention. For each year, there is a list for each region of the world where tropical cyclones occur (Atlantic, Eastern North Pacific, Central North Pacific, Western North Pacific, etc.). The lists of names are agreed upon at international meetings of the World Meteorological Association. Establishing names for storms helps meteorologists track more than one storm at any given time, makes clear the communication of warnings, and facilitates study since the names of major hurricanes are retired to avoid confusion later. In 1979 equality was brought to the naming process, introducing men’s names as well as multicultural names to each season’s list.

Since each season’s storms are named in alphabetical order, there is a preponderance of storms beginning with the letters A, B, and C. However, in 1995, Hurricane Opal ravaged the Florida Panhandle: Not since forecasters began naming hurricanes had they reached the letter O. The letters Q, U, X, Y, and Z are not used because there are so few names beginning with those letters.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy History Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App