The United Nation’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has decided to cancel the name “Ida” used in the Atlantic Hurricane Basin for future tropical storm and hurricane names. Imani will now be used in place of Ida on the agency’s recycling list of names. Due to the extreme amount of death and destruction caused by the category 4 hurricane in the US in 2021, the WMO felt time it was to retire the name and select a new one.
The list of names given to tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic are maintained by the WMO. Currently, only tropical cyclones are named in an official capacity; winter storms are not. The World Meteorological Organization from the United Nations develops a list of names for each ocean basin. In the United States, the National Hurricane Center maintains lists from the WMO for Atlantic Basin and eastern Pacific basin storms. Storms that form near Hawaii come from a list managed by the Central Pacific Hurricane Center.
Storms are named in alphabetical order each season. “It is important to note that tropical cyclones/hurricanes are named neither after any particular person, nor with any preference in alphabetical sequence,” states the WMO. “The tropical cyclone/hurricane names selected are those that are familiar to the people in each region.” These name lists are recycled every 6 years.
Storms responsible for significant death/destruction are retired at annual WMO meetings. During the WMO Region IV Association meeting which ended this week, it was determined that Ida would be retired. The Region IV Association includes North America, Central America, and the Caribbean. In total, 94 names have now been retired from the Atlantic basin list since 1953, when storms began to be named under the current system.
Last year, Hurricane Committee members agreed to create a supplemental list of names A-Z (excluding Q, U, as well as X, Y, and Z on the Atlantic list) that would be used in lieu of the Greek alphabet when the standard list is exhausted in a given season. Names on this list could be retired and replaced, when required. Names beginning with Q, U, X, Y and Z are still not common enough or easily understood in local languages to be slotted into the rotating lists.
The decision to move away from Greek letters was made by different reasons that surfaced in 2020’s hyper-active hurricane season. According to Graham, there can be too much focus on the use of Greek alphabet names and not the actual impacts from the storm. Graham said he received a large volume of phone calls when the name “Zeta” was used, detracting from the impact and safety messaging that should have been shared. Additionally, there is confusion with some Greek alphabet names when they are translated into other languages used by the region.
“There was confusion with translation and pronunciation in foreign languages, which led to confusion,” Graham said. The region encompasses areas where English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese are spoken, and sometimes names don’t translate or pronounce well in other languages. In a written statement, the WMO wrote, “the pronunciation of several of the Greek letters (Zeta, Eta, Theta) are similar and occur in succession. In 2020, this resulted in storms with very similar sounding names occurring simultaneously, which led to messaging challenges rather than streamlined and clear communication.”
“The RA-IV Hurricane Committee’s work is critical to keep our nations coordinated well before the next storm threatens”, said Graham, who also serves as the WMO’s Hurricane Committee Chair. “Hurricanes don’t care about international boundaries. We all face similar dangers from tropical systems. Impacts from a single storm can affect multiple countries, so it is critical we have a plan, coordinate our efforts, and share challenges and best practices”.
“This is a partnership; it’s a friendship. We’re in this together…to save lives …together striving to become weather ready nations, ” Graham said as he addressed reporters today.
“Developing countries and small islands in the Caribbean and Central America are increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of tropical cyclones, which can overturn years of socio-economic development in a matter of hours. In 2020, we saw this once again with tragic effect,” says Evan Thompson, President of WMO’s Regional Association for North America, Central America and the Caribbean.
“We cannot prevent this incredible force of nature, but we do have the power to minimize the loss of life and property through cutting-edge forecasts and warnings and strong regional coordination and cooperation,” said Thompson, who also leads Jamaica’s national meteorological service.
“The RA-IV Hurricane Committee’s work is critical to keep our nations coordinated well before the next storm threatens. Impacts from a single storm can affect multiple countries, so it is critical we have a plan, coordinate our efforts, and share challenges and best practices”, said Ken Graham, Hurricane Committee Chair and Director of the WMO Regional Specialized Meteorological Center Miami/US National Hurricane Center.
“We had more category 4 and category 5 landfalls in the USA from 2017 to 2021 than from 1963 to 2016. Hurricanes don’t care about international boundaries. We need to be prepared.”
Ida was the most devastating storm of the 2021 season. It peaked as a category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale that caused severe to catastrophic damage in southeastern Louisiana. Ida later became an extratropical low that caused heavy rain and deadly flooding, not to mention significant tornadoes, in the northeastern United States. While Ida made landfall in Louisiana, some of storms most significant damage from tornadoes and flooding was in New Jersey. Ida is responsible for 55 direct fatalities and 32 indirect fatalities in the United States. NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) estimated that Ida’s wind, rain, storm surge and tornadoes caused a total of $75 billion in damage in the United States.