August 29, 2023

Idalia is Coming: How Florida's Newest Visitor Got Her Name

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Idalia is Coming: How Florida's Newest Visitor Got Her Name

By Nick | August 29, 2023

A Storm by Any Other Name

Florida, the Sunshine State, is no stranger to hurricanes, and this week, as the state braces for Hurricane Idalia, residents are hustling to stock up on batteries, bottled water, and other essentials. Yet, amidst the hurricane preparation frenzy, a thought might strike the curious mind: "Why 'Idalia'? Who decides these names, and how do hurricanes get them in the first place?"

The Brief History of Naming Storms

Once upon a Floridian storm, hurricanes didn't have personalized monikers. In fact, they were often described by a system of numbers, specifically latitude-longitude, which was about as exciting and memorable as reading the fine print on your insurance policy. But tracking and discussing storms with numbers alone became complicated. Imagine saying, "Remember that hurricane at 23.7N, 75.1W in 1933?" Not quite the catchiest of memories.

Before official naming began, hurricanes were sometimes named arbitrarily. For example, a storm that ripped the shores on San Felipe's Day became the "San Felipe Hurricane". If another hurricane hit on the same day in a different year? Just add the year to the end of the name. Confusing? Absolutely.

Ladies First, Gentlemen Next

During the mid-1900s, however, meteorologists began naming storms after women. This idea was inspired by the practice of Navy meteorologists, who named the typhoons after their wives and girlfriends (hopefully not too many storms after exes). By the 1950s, the United States officially adopted a female naming system for hurricanes.

By the 1970s, advancements in societal views paved equality. Men's names, for example, were introduced to the mix, and storms became an equal opportunity with Hurricane Bob making its debut in 1979.

The Alphabet Soup of Storms

Today, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is responsible for naming hurricanes. They maintain six rotating lists of names, alternating between male and female names in alphabetical order for the Atlantic storms. If a storm is particularly deadly or costly, its name gets retired out of respect for its victims, and a new name starting with the same letter takes its place.

With the 2023 arrival of Hurricane Idalia, it's evident that we're in the "I" section of this year's list. Past memorable "I" storms include Irma and Ike, and we all hope Idalia doesn’t leave a mark as deep as its predecessors.

What’s in a Name?

As Florida waits, watches, and braces for Hurricane Idalia, it's intriguing to reflect on the rich history and culture behind the storm's name. Naming hurricanes humanizes these natural events, making them more relatable and memorable. But while their names might seem casual and almost friendly, the power they wield is anything but.

So, Floridians, as you ponder Idalia's origins, also remember to stay safe, prepared, and resilient, as you always do when faced with the mighty forces of nature.

For more on hurricane preparedness, check out this comprehensive guide.


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