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How Hurricanes Get Their Names

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Nov 03, 2017

We're less than 30 days away from the end of hurricane season, and what a busy season it has been!  Have you ever wondered how those crazy storms get their names? Well wonder no more. Read on for some fun facts.

Who Names Hurricanes and Tropical Storms?

Currently, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is responsible for naming major storms all over the world. The WMO has name lists and assigns them to storms, in order, as they occur in the six weather regions of the world. Six hurricane name lists are rotated every six years, which means that over time more than one storm can have the same name. The lists consist of 21 names in alphabetical order in several languages including English, Dutch, French and Spanish. A storm name may be retired from a list and replaced when a storm causes so much damage that the WMO deems it would be inappropriate to use the name again.

When Does a Hurricane Get Its Name?

Not only have hurricane names been a controversial topic over the years, but the timing of the name can cause heads to spin too. Here are some interesting facts:

  • A hurricane or tropical storm gets its name once it begins rotating counter-clockwise at a wind speed of 39 miles per hour, or 63 kilometers per hour.
  • At that time it is assigned the next name on the list for its weather region.
  • From an insurance perspective, you need to have protection against hurricanes before the storm gets its name for any damages from the storm to be covered.

You may be interested to know that hurricane coverage is often included in your homeowners policy; however, if the primary damage is from floods related to the storm, you must have flood insurance to get any coverage for lost or destroyed items.

Names of the Largest Hurricanes in Recorded History

According to the Saffir-Simpson scale, category 5 is the strongest hurricane level. A total of only 49 hurricanes have attained this status in the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. Of these, some of the most famous ones include the 1959 Mexico Hurricane, Andrew (1992), Gilbert (1988), the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 and Hurricane Janet (1955).

The largest hurricane ever to hit U.S. shores was Superstorm Sandy in October, 2012. Sandy reached 1,000 miles in diameter, brought 100 mph winds and severe storm surge floods. But interestingly enough, it was only considered a category 1 storm. While it wasn’t the worst storm in terms of speed or wind force, it was the biggest in terms of size. It also caused billions of dollars in damage to homes and businesses up and down the Atlantic coast. Needless to say, the name has been retired.

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