With Fiona, Gaston, Hermine and Ian all swirling around simultaneously on Saturday, the Atlantic Basin could have been mistaken for a bowl of alphabet soup.
The unusual outbreak of tropical cyclones — all the more shocking given the relative calm of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season — explained why these things have names.
As the National Hurricane Center and the World Meteorological Organization explain, naming makes it easier to keep track, avoiding using something clumsier, like, say, longitude-latitude coordinates. .
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Names are especially valuable when multiple storms are raging — like now, for example — in the basin, which includes the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.
The denomination is hundreds of years old. At the time, in the West Indies, hurricanes bore the name of the holy days on which they coincided.
But the system as we know it only started in 1953, when the United States started using female names. This practice ended in 1978 and both male and female names were used from the 1979 season.
The names are not chosen arbitrarily. The list is maintained and approved by an international WMO committee.
Six lists of names are used in an annual rotation system. Particularly deadly and destructive storms, like Katrina, Sandy, and Ida, are removed and replaced.
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Ian, which is threatening to become a “major” hurricane, has a shot at becoming the second consecutive “I” retiree.
Let’s hope not.
Among the retired names that belonged to the storms that affected the Philly area were:
Hazel, October 1954: A gust of 94 mph and a sustained wind of 73 mph were recorded in Philadelphia.
Donna, September 1960: Donna’s 4.60 inches of rain set a daily record and sustained winds reached 49 mph.
Agnes, June 1972: Blamed for 117 deaths from North Carolina to New York, Agnes Rains caused coffins to float out of their graves in upstate Pennsylvania.
Floyd, September 1999: More than a foot of rain descended on northern Delaware and caused widespread flooding across the region. This ended a horrible drought.
Irene, August 2011: The Delaware River in Trenton rose about 22 feet the last time it exceeded flood stage.
Sandy, October 2012: Hell for Long Beach Island, and still the reigning power outage champion in the Philadelphia area. In total, he was charged with 72 deaths.