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Greek Names Looming For Busy Atlantic Hurricane Season

Geocolor image of the eye of 2017's Category 5 Hurricane Irma. Elements of this image furnished by NASA.
Trong Nguyen/trongnguyen
Geocolor image of the eye of 2017's Category 5 Hurricane Irma. Elements of this image furnished by NASA.

We’re in the peak of the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season. This season is already one of the busiest on record. We’ve had 21 named storms so far, and the season doesn’t officially end until November 30th.

The last name on the list is Wilfred, and Tropical Storm Wilfred is now swirling in the western Gulf. That means we have to go to the Greek alphabet for storm names, and that’s only happened one other time in the history of Atlantic storms – in 2005.

Hurricane names are created by the World Meteorological Organization. Six years’ worth of names are used in rotation.

“In the past, the rule was it needs to be a proper pronunciation that could be pronounced both in North America, down into Central America – the Spanish speaking areas – and will even on occasion throw in French names,” says Florida Public Radio Meteorologist Athena Masson. You can even submit suggested names via email.

The annual list is missing names that begin with Q, U, X, Y, and Z - those are tougher to come up with. That’s why this year’s list has only 21 names.

If a particular storm is very destructive, its name will be retired. There’ll never be another “Andrew” because of the category 5 hurricane that plowed through South Florida, The Bahamas, and part of Louisiana in 1992.

So what if a Greek-named storm wreaks havoc, like a possible catastrophic Hurricane Alpha? “The name will not retire. Alpha will still be used in the future,” Masson says. “It will instead be known as Alpha 2020.”

Um, let’s hope not.

Gina Jordan is the host of Morning Edition for WFSU News. Gina is a Tallahassee native and graduate of Florida State University. She spent 15 years working in news/talk and country radio in Orlando before becoming a reporter and All Things Considered host for WFSU in 2008. Follow Gina: @hearyourthought on Twitter. Click below for Gina's full bio.