How Are Hurricanes Named? Plus, How Many Times the Name ‘Florence’ Has Been Used Before

It’s common knowledge that large storms like the forthcoming Hurricane Florence are named, but most people take this knowledge as a fact and don’t question how — and why — we name hurricanes.

There’s a method to the madness and one that makes for repeats every once in a while. This season’s most dangerous hurricane isn’t the first named Florence — and likely won’t be the last — so how do meteorologists determine what to name each storm?

Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence | NASA via Getty Images

Hurricanes are given names in the interest of public safety

The main reason we name hurricanes? To avoid confusion and streamline communication. A spokeswoman for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) explained it’s easier for the media to publicize a storm and stress the importance of warnings when a storm has an easily-identifiable name.

Atlantic hurricanes (like Florence) are named off a list of male and female names used on a six-year rotation by season. The only time this could potentially change is if a storm is “so deadly or costly that the future use of its name on a different storm would be inappropriate,” the National Ocean Service reported.

In cases where its considered insensitive to reuse a storm name, the name is retired upon request of the country’s representatives at annual WMO committee meetings. Recent examples include Katrina, Sandy, and Ike, all of which have been removed from the potential hurricane name list.

The WMO forecasts 6 years of hurricane names

We have hurricane names forecasted as far out as 2022 as of fall 2018. This season’s names — including Florence — were last used in 2012. The WMO only names tropical storms with projected sustained winds of 39 miles per hour.

Last year’s dangerous tropical storms included Harvey and Irma. Naming officially begins starting June 1 and continues through November 30 each year.

Hurricane Irma in Pembroke

Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc on the Atlantic coast. | Michele Eve Sandberg/AFP/Getty Images

There have been five previous hurricanes named ‘Florence’

The first struck in 1953 and the most recent in 2006. The 1953 Florence was a Category 1 storm which struck the Florida Panhandle. It was the fifth hurricane of the season and developed from a tropical wave near Jamaica and ultimately caused serious damage in western Cuba.

Over 420 homes were damaged from Florence and three were entirely destroyed. Only one person was reportedly injured from the hurricane and there were zero reported deaths associated with Hurricane Florence. The damage totaled $200,000 in 1953 USD. It would reportedly run around $1.83 million if adjusted for inflation in 2018.

Florence struck yet again in September 1988, 35 years after the first hurricane of its name. The Florida Panhandle was once again affected as was New Orleans. The storm lasted only 12 hours.

In 1994, Hurricane Florence appeared as a late-season Category 2 storm, the first November hurricane since 1986. It became the season’s most intense storm but had little effect on any land masses.

The fifth Hurricane Florence initiated in Bermuda. It was the seventh tropical storm and second hurricane of the 2006 Atlantic season and grew to an “unusually large size.” The 2006 Hurricane Florence produced extremely high wind gusts on the island of Bermuda and brought heavy rainfalls across Newfoundland. There were no reported fatalities as a result of the storm.

What to expect from Hurricane Florence (2018)

Nearly one million people have been instructed to flee the Atlantic coast and multiple states have declared a state of emergency as we prepare for Hurricane Florence. The National Weather Service said the Category 4 storm will bring life-threatening surges and heavy rainfall to parts of the Carolinas, Virginia, and potentially the surrounding Atlantic states.

While coaster areas South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia all have mandatory evacuation orders in place, many residents have chosen to stay and will likely experience high winds Thursday night followed by a projected Friday morning landfall.

The Red Cross is reportedly sending thousands of volunteers for the region to help the estimated 100,000 people who will be affected by Florence. They’re asking for donations rather than goods in order to best assist those in Florence’s path.

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