Never forgotten: Why names like Hurricane Katrina are retired

Several homes and vehicles destroyed in the 9th Ward of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005

The year’s North Atlantic hurricane season starts on June 1, with predictions for more than the usual number of named hurricanes to spawn in 2013.

Since the 1950’s hurricanes in the United States have been given names, starting with women’s names and then in the late 1970’s men’s names were also used. For Atlantic hurricanes, there is a rotating list of names for each of six years so that one of the lists is reused after seven years.

There will only be one Hurricane Sandy, Katrina, etc…

That system is only changed if a storm is so lethal or costly that it is believed that reusing its name on a different storm would be confusing or insensitive. So for some hurricanes there can be a lot of infamy in a name—and then they experience very early, permanent, retirement.

After an especially destructive and notorious storm occurs, its name is removed from the list and is replaced with another name; this is decided during an annual meeting by an international committee of the World Meteorological Organization.

Not every year has a storm deleted from the master name list. In 2005 five hurricane names were removed from the list —a record—while in 2012 only one name was taken off, Sandy, for Superstorm Sandy, which set its own records because of its size and severity.

Hurricane Sandy devastation in Far Rockaway

NEW YORK -NOV 12 2012 :Destroyed homes during Hurricane Sandy in the flooded neighborhood at Breezy Point in Far Rockaway area. The name Hurricane ‘Sandy’ was retired

For Crawford, Sandy also generated a record response, with almost 600 adjusters deploying into damage zones to help insurers and the insured deal with the effects of the enormous hurricane. Our work with Sandy is just one recent example of our range of catastrophe response services.

With the number of hurricanes in 2013 expected to reach the high teens there will be a lot of new names to learn—and maybe a few of the storms will be so harmful that their names will retired forever—once and done. Let’s hope not many names get taken off the list for this year.


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