How Do Hurricanes Get Their Names?

During the summer, most Americans plan vacations, visit sporting events and the beach and hope for glowing tans. Unfortunately, the summer also brings hurricanes. In the North Atlantic region, hurricanes typically hit during the summer and fall, according to

To form, hurricanes need warm water of at least 80° F, high humidity, light winds and warm surface temperatures. The official hurricane season in the North Atlantic begins on June 1 and ends on November 30. While it is possible for a strong hurricane to develop in November, it is rare. Hurricanes like Kate, a Category 2 hurricane who hit Mexico Beach, FL on November 21st, 1985 are a rare exception. Generally, the warm water needed to generate hurricanes begins to cool in late autumn and weather patterns lessen the chances for the development of tropical storms. Homeowners in Florida, South Carolina, Alabama and other coastal states breathe a sigh of relief as fall arrives.

How do these violent storms get their names?

In order to receive a name, the storm must first start as a tropical depression and then turn into a tropical storm. Prior to World War II, U.S. hurricanes received names based on their original latitude and longitude location. These numeric names did not translate well. During WWII, U.S. military and naval meteorologists based in the Pacific began to assign women’s names to tropical storms. By 1953, this system was utilized for Atlantic Ocean hurricanes, as well.

From 1953 through 1978, hurricanes were named after women. According to the National Hurricane Center, after 1953 the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) developed a strict naming system. In 1978, the Equal Rights Movement was in full swing and public sentiment determined the hurricane-naming process was chauvinistic. Therefore, hurricanes that originated in the Eastern North Pacific region began to alternate naming from names from male to female. By 1979, the Hurricane Center also adopted this practice for Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic hurricanes.

Every year 21 names are used, each starting with a different letter. The names are arranged in alpha order. If more than 21 tropical storms occur in a calendar year, storms after the 21st receive Greek letter names like Alpha, Beta, Gamma, etc.

The World Meteorological Organization has six name directories it recycles every six years.

When a hurricane wreaks severe damage, its name may be retired. For example, 2005’s Hurricane Katrina that slammed into the Gulf Coast, Hurricane Sandy that ravaged the New York area in 2012, the 1992 Hurricane Andrew, and the 1989 Hurricane Hugo that hit Florida are all retired.

It might be more accurate to borrow the names of Florida or Texas cities to name hurricanes. Before 2008, 39 percent of all major US hurricanes hit Florida, and 71 percent of all category 4 or 5 hurricanes struck either Florida or Texas, according to a study done by Northeastern University.

Here is the official list of potential 2013 hurricane names:

Hurricane names are established through 2016. For the record, the first tropical storm of 2014 will be Arthur, in 2015, it will be Ana, and in 2016, Alex is up first, tells us.

Don’t be caught unprepared as hurricane season barrels down on the Southeast. Read our homeowner tips for hurricane preparation here and here or contact your insurance agent. A Frontline agent can help you evaluate the adequacy of your current Florida, Alabama or South Carolina homeowners coverage in the event of a catastrophic loss like a hurricane. For more information on how Frontline Insurance can assist you, visit this Frontline link.

Please remember that the comments contained in this blog are general in nature and that coverage under any specific policy of insurance will depend upon the terms and conditions of such policy.