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Retired Hurricane Names: The Most Notorious Atlantic Storms Since 1954
Published: June 12, 2018
Some Atlantic Basin hurricanes have had their names retired. Just as no New York Yankee will ever again wear No. 3 (Babe Ruth), nor will a Green Bay Packer ever claim No. 15 (Bart Starr), no future Atlantic hurricane will ever be named Harvey, Irma, Katrina, Maria or Sandy.
(MORE: Why Hurricanes are Named)
Unlike an athlete's number, however, there is no celebration when an Atlantic name is retired from future use.
Contrary to popular opinion, a committee of the World Meteorological Organization – not the U.S. National Hurricane Center – is responsible for the tropical cyclone name lists.
Atlantic hurricane and tropical storm name lists repeat every six years, unless one is so destructive and/or deadly that the committee votes to retire that name from future lists. This avoids the use of, say, Katrina, Sandy or Maria to describe a future weak, open-ocean tropical storm.
Only 20 seasons have not had a name retired, most recently in 2014. Another 24 seasons, through 2017, have had multiple names removed from future use, led by the record-smashing 2005 hurricane season's five retirees.
Names beginning with the letter "I" lead the retirees with 11, followed by nine "C" storms, then eight "F" storms. Nine of those "I" storms have earned retirement just since 2001, including a four-year streak from 2001 through 2004 (Iris, Isidore, Isabel and Ivan, respectively). Wilma in 2005 is the deepest-in-the-alphabet retiree.
Some names you'll instantly recognize. Others, not so much.
For example, Katrina, Rita and Wilma are the big three you undoubtedly remember from 2005. You may have forgotten about Dennis and Stan, however. Did you know Stan may have been more deadly than Katrina?
The retired Atlantic storms weren't all necessarily intense Category 3, 4 or 5 hurricanes. In fact, a good number of them were retired due to their deadly flooding in the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America or the United States.
Only two Atlantic retirees never attained hurricane status: 2015's Tropical Storm Erika and 2001's Tropical Storm Allison. Damage from Erika's epic flooding may have set Dominica's progress back 20 years, according to the country's prime minister in late-summer 2015.
Allison was a $9-billion storm and one of the worst floods of record in Houston until 2017's Harvey.
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