What’s in a name?


Ivan, Irene, Irma, and now Ida.

The names of some of the most terrible hurricanes to have struck the United States all happen to start with the same letter. The letter "I."

Names repeat every six years unless a storm is particularly destructive. In that case, its name is retired "for reasons of sensitivity." A total of 93 names have been retired since 1954, including 12 "I" named storms.

Statistically, storms with "I" names are the most likely to be retired. That's because storm names are in alphabetical order. According to The Washington Post, the "I" names tend to coincide near the typical peak of the hurricane season between mid-August and the end of September.

"With warm ocean temperatures and the absence of disruptive high-altitude winds, conditions are typically prime for hurricane development just when 'I' is reached on the alphabetical list of storms," writer Brian McNoldy explains.

Over the past 50 years, the average "I" or ninth named storm forms on September 23, which is towards the end of peak hurricane season. But during active seasons, like this one, the average date moves up by about two weeks.

When Hurricane Ida made landfall as a Category 4 storm on Sunday August 29, it was almost a month ahead of schedule.

Whether or not Ida will be retired is up to the World Meteorological Organization. They will make that call at the end of the hurricane season and will announce their decision in early 2022.

"The only time that there is a change in the (hurricane name) list is if a storm is so deadly or costly that the future use of its name for a different storm would be inappropriate for reasons of sensitivity," the National Hurricane Center's website explains. "If that occurs, then at an annual meeting by the WMO committee (called primarily to discuss many other issues) the offending name is stricken from the list and another name is selected to replace it."

With more than 1 million currently without power following Ida and entire communities under water, it seems likely that Ida will join the list of infamous "I" names on the retired list.