Dear Crabby, How Do Hurricanes Get Their Names?

Dear Crabby,

Is it just me or are there more hurricanes than normal lately? It seems like they used to be a rare occurrence, but now I hear about them almost every night on the news. And it got me wondering … how do hurricanes get their names?

Gail Storm

Dear Gail Storm,

I have to agree with you. Hurricanes have been relentless this year. The devastation Harvey, Irma, and Maria have caused is just staggering. And then I read some people that were affected by Harvey in Texas were transplants from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. I know I’m just an old curmudgeon, but even I have a soft spot for when I see and hear stories like that. Talk about not being able to catch a break. And then, did you hear the latest hurricane, Ophelia, made it all the way to Ireland and part of Great Britain? I mean, how crazy is that? I’ve often thought it would be a kick to get to name things. Not anything silly like makeup or nail polish, but paint colors and such. In fact, I had a buddy growing up whose dad worked for The Big Three (that would be General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler in case you’ve forgotten) and part of his job was helping to come up with names for the paint colors that would go on cars and trucks. I mean, why say ‘gray’ when you can say ‘Shadow,’ right? Sounds more mysterious, even if you’re driving a clunker. Anyway, you asked about how hurricanes get their names.

Dear Crabby sits infront of his laptop

Dear Crabby Gives Advice

First off, in order to be hurricane name worthy, a storm must have sustained winds in excess of 73 mph. Back in the day when these storms happened, they used all sorts of technical jargon like longitude and latitude to pinpoint their position. Which is great if you’re a sailor. But it was largely lost on the common, everyday folks, which meant they weren’t prepared for when the hurricane hit. Then meteorologists and other experts got smart and realized assigning a name to a hurricane helped people remember them better and communicate about them more effectively, which greatly helped if and when a particular storm strikes a coast. Names are assigned from a formal, pre-approved list prior the beginning of each hurricane season, which starts June 1 and ends November 30. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) generates and maintains the list of hurricane names. Now these lists rotate, one each year. That means we’ll see a name on this year’s list again six years from now. However, sometimes there are exceptions. Back in 2005 when Katrina hit New Orleans, it was the single costliest and third most deadly tropical cyclone ever to hit the United States. In fact, because Katrina was so disastrous, WMO permanently removed it from their list of potential hurricane names. Wonder if they’ll do the same with Hurricane Maria? If you were paying attention to the beginning of this post, you’ll remember I mentioned Hurricane Ophelia. According to the official 2017 list of names, Philippe, Rina, Sean, Tammy, Vince, and Whitney are waiting to be called up. I really hope we don’t have to use any of them, as I’m sure are the folks who live in areas that regularly see hurricanes.

So, now you know. And you know what else? Not to make light of the tragedy these hurricanes bring, but I’m sure glad I live in Michigan where we don’t have hurricanes. In fact, the only repeated disaster I have to worry about is the Detroit Lions football season.

Thanks for your question,

Dear Crabby


About Dear Crabby

Stuck in a rut? Need some biased advice from a crabby old baby-boomer? Read regularly by thousands and loved by some, Dear Crabby answers questions weekly to life's challenges. Send him a note at

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