Saturday, September 9, 2017

Still Life with Robin: Name of the Storm

Hurricane Irma (NOAA)
by Peggy Robin

Irma is on its way to Florida and it’s predicted to be one of those hurricanes so memorably destructive that no other hurricane will ever bear that name again. If you are interested in how hurricane names are “retired” and which ones are so terrible as to cause the hurricane-naming committee to remove the name from future use, here’s how it works:

Harvey, too, will surely be retired.

Amid all the loss to come with Irma, and all the loss that came just a few shorts weeks ago from Harvey, it’s good to hear a note of sweetness coming from those two names, in the form of this story of a loving couple, married for 75 years. Harvey is 104 and Irma is 93:

Back when these two were children, there were plenty of little Harveys and Irmas running around. Harvey was at its peak in 1921 in terms of actual numbers of boys given that name in 1921 while it achieved its top ranking (#51) in 1880 (see: Irma hit its highest ranking in 1911 at #136. (see:

Katrina used to be in the top 100 before the hurricane of that name in 2005 (for an account of its steep drop in popularity post 2005 see but now it barely cracks the top 1,000, at its present ranking of #997.

Of course, the most durable and popular names --Andrew, David, Anita, Donna, many others-- aren’t shunned, even immediately after the most horrible hurricane of that name has done its worst. On the heels of Hurricane Irma will come Katie and Jose – and both names are securely in the top 500 and are not expected to decline. Katie was as high as #166 in 2010; while Jose was at that ranking just last year.

If you would rather not dwell further on the named storms of 2017, here’s a peek ahead to the hurricane names of 2018: Alberto Beryl Chris Debby Ernesto Florence Gordon Helene Isaac Joyce Kirk Leslie Michael Nadine Oscar Patty Rafael Sara Tony Valerie William. May none of them become unique!


Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.  

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