The “I’s” Have It

Ida Making Landfall

From today’s Washington Post:

Since 1953, tropical storms have been given human names to make identifying them more convenient. For 26 years they were given only female names, but in 1979 the male-female alternating alphabetical lists that we use today were introduced. Names associated with storms that cause severe loss of life or property damage are retired by the World Meteorological Organization. The idea of permanently retiring a storm name began after the 1954 hurricane season when Carol, Edna and Hazel ravaged the East Coast. Since that fateful year, a total of 94 storm names have been retired, and the count of those beginning with “I” totals more than any other letter: 11. Here they all are, listed by year: Ione (1955), Inez (1966), Iris (2001), Isadore (2002), Isabel (2003), Ivan (2004), Ike (2008), Igor (2010), Irene (2011), Ingrid (2013) and Irma (2017).

I find it interesting that all except two of these retired storm names have occurred in the last twenty years. Continuing in this vein, Hurricane Ida made landfall this morning just south of New Orleans, sixteen years to the day that Katrina struck that same city. It is too soon to know how much damage Ida will do. We probably won’t have any idea of the damage for days, but there is a distinct chance that it could become the twelfth “I” storm name to be retired. This is not entirely coincidental, because “I” placement in the alphabet generally aligns well with the peak of the hurricane season, where the most damaging storm are formed. Over the past 50 years, the average “I” or ninth named storm forms on September 23, toward the tail end of peak hurricane season. But during active seasons, which produce the most extreme hurricanes, the average date creeps up about a few weeks, coinciding with this year’s peak hurricane period.

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