A hurricane name can’t tell you about the storm’s power, although September’s hurricanes have a record of being strongest, but its name can tell you how many have already been in the season.
With a huge quantity of information from storm-tracking stations, scientists need a short, easy to understand naming convention for hurricanes in order to process them as quickly as possible.
Before 1950, hurricanes didn’t have names.
In the past, the most memorable hurricanes were simply described, such as the “1935 Labor Day hurricane” and the “1821 Norfolk and Long Island hurricane.”
Since 1950, hurricanes began getting names, but the same names were repeated each year until 1953, which became confusing.
From 1953 until 1979, it was customary to use only female names, supposedly after girlfriends and wives of Army and Navy meteorologists.
The current system began in 1979, and runs alphabetically through male and female names starting with a name beginning with the letter A, such as Arlene for this year.
Every year the names are different from the last until the six-year cycle restarts.
In 2011, the following names have been allocated:
Arlene, Bret, Cindy, Don, Emily, Franklin, Gert, Harvey, Irene, Jose, Katia, Lee, Maria, Nate, Ophelia, Philippe, Rina, Sean, Tammy, Vince, Whitney.
In 2012 the names will begin with Alberto, Beryl, Chris, and so on.
The last time Irene name was used was in 2005, the same year Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.
Like 74 other Atlantic hurricanes, Katrina’s name has been permanently retired to reduce confusion and show respect for those who lost their lives in the hurricane.
All hurricanes that result in extraordinary loss of life have their names retired, and are replaced by another name beginning with the same letter. The name Katrina was replaced with Katia, which will be the name assigned to the 11th hurricane in the 2011 season.
Irene 2005 never hit ashore and only reached Category 2, according to Saffir/Simpson Hurricane scale.
In 2011 Hurricane Irene is expected to reach Category 4 by the time it comes ashore.
Saffir/Simpson Hurricane Scale
Winds & Effects
No real damage to building structures. Damage primarily to unanchored mobile homes, shrubbery, and trees. Also, some coastal flooding and minor pier damage.
Some roofing material, door, and window damage. Considerable damage to vegetation, mobile homes, etc. Flooding damages piers and small craft in unprotected moorings may break their moorings.
Some structural damage to small residences and utility buildings, with a minor amount of curtainwall failures. Mobile homes are destroyed. Flooding near the coast destroys smaller structures with larger structures damaged by floating debris. Terrain may be flooded well inland.
More extensive curtainwall failures with some complete roof structure failure on small residences. Major erosion of beach areas. Terrain may be flooded well inland.
18 ft +
Complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings. Some complete building failures with small utility buildings blown over or away. Flooding causes major damage to lower floors of all structures near the shoreline. Massive evacuation of residential areas may be required.