Historically, notorious hurricanes were named after a saint's day. Hurricane San Felipe struck Puerto Rico on September 13 in 1876, and struck again on that day in 1928.
Another approach was attempted around the turn of the 20th century by an English-born meteorologist living in Australia, Clement Wragge, who sometimes assigned to storms women's names, or perhaps an irksome politician. Wragge's colleagues often referred to him as "Inclement Wragge."
In 1941, author George Rippey Stewart began the practice, now taken for granted, of naming various storms, in his novel, Storm.
Since 1953, developing storms in the Atlantic have been given short names by the National Hurricane Center, which is near Miami, to replace the unwieldy longitude-latitude method of tracking storms. The NHC developed a chart of names, in alphabetical order, that would cover a six-year period before repeating itself. Names are now alternated with male and female names from the English, Spanish, and French languages.
One proviso: Names beginning with Q, U, X, Y, and Z in the western hemisphere are not included on the list because of a paucity of names starting with those letters.
Prior to 1978, only female names were used. In that year, weather officials began to alternate male with female when naming storms in the eastern North Pacific. The following year, naming storms in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico followed suit.
Should a storm be deemed destructive enough in the number of lives it claimed, or havoc it wreaked, that name is retired for a minimum of 10 years for data collection, insurance claims and personal sensitivity. The name is replaced with another beginning with the same letter and gender.
Regionwide naming systems
The Atlantic is not unique in the manner its storms are named. Regions from around the globe bear their distinctive, cultural stamp on area storms, and are approved by the World Meteorological Organization. Other regions include:
Central North Pacific Akoni, IoLana,
Western North Pacific Kong-rey, Fung-wong,
Western Australia Kirrily, Inigo,
Northern Australia Alistair, Neville,
Eastern Australia Wylva, Des,
Fiji Dovi, Oma,
New Guinea Kama, Emau,
the Philippines Huaning, Domeng, and
Southwest Indian Ocean Ouledi, Rugare.
Worldwide coverage of storms
Thanks to modern technology, capable of reaching around the the world with its video and audio coverage, storms can be tracked many days in advance, allowing for evacuation of possible storm targets along the world's coastlines and low-lying areas.
Such specialty weather news television stations as The Weather Channel (TWC) and all-category news station Central News Network (CNN) are capable of sending film crews into the teeth of a storm, transmitting up-the-minute images to the rest of the world of what the local people are facing, or will face if they decline to evacuate.
This is a far cry from what pioneers faced when they came to the gulf coast, say sometimes as few as a few precious minutes' warning and a snap decision on whether to leave or ride out the storm. Sometimes those decisions were fatal.
Notorious U.S. hurricanes: 1965-2005
Betsy September 7, 1965,
Camille August 17, 1969,
Celia August 3, 1970,
Agnes June 18, 1972,
David August 25, 1979,
Alicia August 17, 1983,
Gloria September 27, 1985,
Gilbert September 10, 1988
Hugo September 22, 1989,
Andrew August 24, 1992,
Bret August 23, 1999,
Lili October 3, 2002
Katrina August 29, 2005,
Rita September 24, 2005,
See Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale .