Retired Hurricane Names

Hurricane Elena in the Gulf of Mexico
InterNetwork Media/ Digital Vision/ Getty Images

Anyone who watches weather on TV has heard meteorologists referring to tropical storms and hurricanes by people's names, alternating male and female names, alphabetically. The names used each year for the storms in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean come from six lists of 21 names, established by the World Meterological Society, that rotate in a cycle in a system that dates back to the 1950s, though the naming convention has evolved over time.

For example, the six-year cycle of permanent lists began in 1979. Uncommon letters for first names, such as U, X, Y, Q, and Z, are skipped.

Tropical Storm or a Hurricane?

Hurricane season typically starts June 1 and ends Nov. 30. To become classified as a tropical storm, a tropical depression needs to graduate to having sustained winds of more than 39 miles per hour; after 79 mph, a storm becomes a hurricane. When there are more than 21 storms big enough to be named, like happened in 2005, Katrina's year, the Greek alphabet letters come into play for names. 

When Are Names Retired?

Usually, the six lists of names for tropical storms and hurricanes repeat. However, if there is an unusually large or damaging hurricane, the name is retired by the World Meteorological Organization’s hurricane committee because using it again could be considered insensitive and could also cause confusion. Then that name is replaced on its list with another short, distinctive name of the same letter as the name retired.

The first hurricane name retired was Carol, a category 3 hurricane (up to 129 mph winds) at its worst when it hit landfall Aug. 31, 1954, in the Northeast. It caused more than 60 deaths and more than $460 million in damage. Storm surges in Providence, Rhode Island, reached 14.4 feet (4.4 m), and a quarter of the city's downtown ended up underneath 12 feet of water (3.7 m).

Using the criteria of extensive damage and loss of life could lead Harvey, Irma, and Maria to be under consideration for retirement, after devastating Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico, among other areas, in 2017. 

Retired Hurricane Names, Alphabetically

  • Agnes (1972)
  • Alicia (1983)
  • Allen (1980)
  • Allison (tropical storm, 2001)
  • Andrew (1992)
  • Anita (1977)
  • Audrey (1957)
  • Betsy (1965)
  • Beulah (1967)
  • Bob (1991)
  • Camille (1969)
  • Carla (1961)
  • Carmen (1974)
  • Carol (1954)
  • Celia (1970)
  • Cesar (1996)
  • Charley (2004)
  • Cleo (1964)
  • Connie (1955)
  • David (1979)
  • Dean (2007)
  • Dennis (2005)
  • Diana (1990)
  • Diane (1955)
  • Donna (1960)
  • Dora (1964)
  • Edna (1968)
  • Elena (1985)
  • Eloise (1975)
  • Erika (2015)
  • Fabian (2003)
  • Felix (2007)
  • Fifi (1974)
  • Flora (1963)
  • Floyd (1999)
  • Fran (1996)
  • Frances (2004)
  • Frederic (1979)
  • Georges (1998)
  • Gilbert (1988)
  • Gloria (1985)
  • Gustav (2008)
  • Hattie (1961)
  • Hazel (1954)
  • Hilda (1964)
  • Hortense (1996)
  • Hugo (1989)
  • Igor (2010)
  • Ike (2008)
  • Inez (1966)
  • Ingrid (2013)
  • Ione (1955)
  • Irene (2011)
  • Iris (2001)
  • Isabel (2003)
  • Isidore (2002)
  • Ivan (2004)
  • Janet (1955)
  • Jeanne (2004)
  • Joan (1988)
  • Joaquin (2015)
  • Juan (2003)
  • Katrina (2005)
  • Keith (2000)
  • Klaus (1990)
  • Lenny (1999)
  • Lili (2002)
  • Luis (1995)
  • Marilyn (1995)
  • Matthew (2016)
  • Michelle (2001)
  • Mitch (1998)
  • Noel (2007)
  • Opal (1995)
  • Otto (2016)
  • Paloma (2008)
  • Rita (2005)
  • Roxanne (1995)
  • Sandy (2012)
  • Stan (2005)
  • Tomas (2010)
  • Wilma (2005)

 

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Your Citation
Rosenberg, Matt. "Retired Hurricane Names." ThoughtCo, Feb. 8, 2018, thoughtco.com/retired-hurricane-names-1435348. Rosenberg, Matt. (2018, February 8). Retired Hurricane Names. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/retired-hurricane-names-1435348 Rosenberg, Matt. "Retired Hurricane Names." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/retired-hurricane-names-1435348 (accessed February 23, 2018).