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Names That ‘Don’t Bear Repeating’: Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate

Good riddance, Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate.

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, New York Times

Good riddance, Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate.

They were the monsters of the hurricane season from hell. Now, their names — already cursed, loathed and spray-painted on hastily bought plywood — are being banished.

An international committee of meteorologists has officially retired the names of the four 2017 storms from the rotating roster of cyclone names. They do that, the World Meteorological Organization says, when the committee judges that “a storm is so deadly or costly that the future use of its name on a different storm would be inappropriate for reasons of sensitivity.”

Four scratches from a single season is a lot, but it is not really a surprise, considering how nasty the storms were.

Harvey dumped up to 5 feet of rain along and near the Texas coast, flooding much of Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city, and scores of other communities. Irma smashed through the Caribbean and then whacked Florida. Maria devastated Dominica, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Nate wreaked widespread destruction in Central America.

Together they killed at least 340 people, directly or indirectly — and the true toll is almost certainly much higher. To update its count, Puerto Rico is conducting a review of every death on the island since Maria made landfall there.

So you can see why the National Hurricane Center said Thursday that the names “don’t bear repeating.”

Only one other storm season has produced more banishments: 2005, the year of Dennis, Rita, Stan, Wilma and especially Katrina.

The current storm-naming system that covers the Atlantic basin dates from 1979, when the authorities drew up six alphabetical lists of men’s and women’s names to be used in rotation. A similar system is used in the Pacific.

The storms are not “named neither after any particular person, nor with any preference in alphabetical sequence,” the international meteorological group says; rather, they are selected to be “familiar to the people in each region.”

Why name storms at all?

“The main purpose,” the group says, “is basically for people easily to understand and remember” them.

Whether that is strictly all there is to it has long been the subject of debate and speculation. At least two names that were used for a while, Gilbert and Roxanne, happened to match those of a longtime forecaster at the National Hurricane Center and his daughter.

Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate have already been replaced in the six-year rotating roster. Come 2023, their spots will be filled by Harold, Idalia, Margot and Nigel.

First up this year: Aletta.

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