Hurricane names Harvey, Irma and Maria officially ‘retired’
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Goodbye and good riddance. Last year’s horrific hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria killed hundreds of people, caused over $200 billion in damages and brought misery and hardship to millions of Americans.
Now, those names will never be used again, after they were officially “retired” Thursday by the World Meteorological Organization hurricane committee.
Nate, a hurricane that hit central America as a tropical storm, then the U.S. Gulf Coast, is also being retired.
Category 4 Harvey killed 68 people in Texas and dumped historic amounts of rain on Houston. It’s the second-costliest hurricane in U.S. history, behind Katrina.
Irma lashed the Caribbean and the U.S., making seven separate landfalls as it tore across the islands and the Southeast U.S. A Category 5 storm at its height, Irma killed more than 100 people and devastated the island of Barbuda and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Hurricane Maria ravaged the island of Dominica as a category 5 on Sept. 19, and later devastated Puerto Rico as a high-end category 4 hurricane, producing catastrophic damage to the U.S. territory.
The meteorological organization retired the four names from its rotating list used for hurricanes and tropical storms in light of the death and destruction the storms caused last year.
The organization reuses storm names every six years in lists for both the Atlantic and eastern Pacific basins. The nation hardest hit by a storm can request its name be removed because the storm was so deadly or costly that future use of the name would be insensitive.
The removal also avoids confusion caused by a future storm having the same name. In 2005, five storm names, including Katrina, were retired — the most for a single season.
The list from 2017 will be used again in 2023. The organization will replace Harvey with Harold, Irma with Idalia, and Maria with Margot. Nate will be replaced by Nigel.
This year’s Atlantic hurricane season officially begins June 1 — with Alberto.
In all, 86 hurricane names have now been retired. When a storm name is retired from the Atlantic’s list of names, member countries of the meteorological organization from that region select a new name. For Atlantic storms, the name can be French, Spanish or English, reflecting the languages of residents of countries that could be impacted by a hurricane.
In 1953, the U.S. began using female names for hurricanes and, by 1979, both male and female names were used. The names alternate between male and female.
There are no Q, U, X, Y or Z names, due to the lack of usable names that begin with those letters. If more than 21 storms form in one season, like in 2005, the Greek alphabet is used to name the additional storms.
There are also separate lists for typhoons in the western Pacific and tropical cyclones in Australia and the Indian Ocean.