How hurricane names are ‘retired’ from use for future storms

When it comes to hurricanes, it’s all in a name.

Katrina will forever bring to mind the unbridled devastation in Louisiana in 2005 as one of the costliest hurricanes in the U.S. on record. Maria recalls the destruction and massive loss of lives – particularly in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands – in 2017. With Maria, nearly 3,000 people in Puerto Rico were killed as a result of the hurricane.

And Harvey, also one of the costliest storms, is reminiscent of the catastrophe it brought to Texas and Louisiana in 2017.

For Atlantic hurricanes, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) recycles a list of names every six years – a process that is maintained by the World Meteorological Organization, the NHC explains.

But you won’t find Harvey, Katrina or Maria – along with many others – in those lists because they have been “retired.”

Katrina was retired in 2005, along with Dennis, Rita, Stan and Wilma. In 2017, Harvey and Maria were retired, in addition to Irma and Nate.

To retire a storm name – and have it removed from the list – the hurricane must be “so deadly or costly that the future use of its name on a different storm would be inappropriate for obvious reasons of sensitivity,” according to the NHC.

The name will be officially removed from the lists during an annual meeting by the World Meteorological Organization committee, NHC said.

As of Thursday morning, Hurricane Florence was a monster Category 2 storm barreling toward the Carolinas. Forecasters have warned that the widening storm – and its likelihood of lingering around the coast day after day after day – will bring surging ocean water and torrential rain with the possibility of catastrophic inland flooding that could swamp homes, businesses, farms and industrial sites.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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