Irma, Maria, Harvey Retired As Hurricane Names


A report by Paul Sciccitano for Patch.

Irma sucker punched Florida. Harvey kicked Texas in the gut and Maria knocked Puerto Rico to its knees. But, at least, we won’t be seeing any more of those meteorological bullies. Weather officials at the National Hurricane center in Miami announced Thursday that all three hurricane names — along with Hurricane Nate — were being retired as a lasting testament to their infamy.

“Last season as we found out the hard way, it was the most active season we’ve seen since 2010 just in sheer numbers,” said Dennis Feltgen of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration after making the announcement.

Storm names are retired if they were so deadly or destructive that the future use of the name would be insensitive — otherwise names are reused on a six-year cycle.

“It was also one of the most destructive in history in terms of damage with Harvey, Irma and Maria all in the top five of most destructive hurricanes in the United States,” Feltgen told Patch. “That includes Puerto Rico.”

Last year Matthew and Otto became the 81st and 82nd names to be removed from the Atlantic list, according to NOAA.

With the addition of Irma, Harvey, Maria and Nate, the list has grown to 86 names that have been retired from the Atlantic basin since 1953, when storms were first named.

The 2005 hurricane season had the most retired names with five in one season. The decision to retire names is taken by the World Meteorological Organization’s Region IV Hurricane Committee of which NOAA is a member.

“Those four names joined a very long list of destructive storms which for Florida purposes includes such storms as Donna, Andrew and Betsy,” Feltgen added of this year’s additions. “For Texas, it joins the ranks of storms such as Ike and Carla.”

The committee selected Harold, Idalia, Margot and Nigel as replacement names for Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate. The new names will first appear in the 2023 list of storm names.

Weather historians will remember Hurricane Irma as a long-lived storm that reached category 5 intensity on Sept. 5, 2017. “The catastrophic hurricane made seven landfalls, four of which occurred as a category 5 hurricane across the northern Caribbean Islands,” NOAA said. “Irma made landfall as a category 4 hurricane in the Florida Keys on Sept. 10 and struck southwestern Florida as a category 3 the same day.”

Irma caused 44 direct deaths as a result of its strong winds, heavy rain and high surf. Seven direct deaths were reported in the United States and another 85 indirect deaths occurred, 80 of which were in Florida. Hundreds more were injured preparing for the storm, during it or in its aftermath, according to weather officials.

Hurricane Harvey became a category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale before making landfall along the middle Texas coast on Aug. 25,” NOAA said. “The storm then stalled, with its center remaining over or near the Texas coast for four days, dropping historic rainfall amounts of up to five feet, causing catastrophic flooding in parts of southeastern Texas.”

Harvey will be remembered as the second costliest hurricane in U.S. history with adjustments for inflation behind only Katrina in 2005. At least 68 people died from the direct effects of the storm in Texas, the largest number in that state since 1919, weather officials said.

Hurricane Maria ravaged the island of Dominica as a category 5 on Sept. 19, and later devastated Puerto Rico as a high-end category 4 hurricane,” NOAA explained. “It also inflicted serious damage on some of the other islands of the northeastern Caribbean Sea.”

Maria is the third costliest hurricane in U.S. history, behind Harvey and Katrina with 31 direct deaths and 34 missing in Dominica. It also caused two direct deaths in Guadeloupe. In Puerto Rico, the death toll stands at 65, which includes an unknown number of indirect deaths, weather officials said.

Hurricane Nate crossed northeastern Nicaragua and eastern Honduras as a tropical storm, then made landfall on the northern Gulf Coast as a category 1 hurricane,” according to NOAA. “It brought rainfall that caused significant impacts in Central America, where media reports indicate that these caused 44 deaths in the region.”

Counting one additional death in Panama due to a “shipwreck,” the death toll directly associated with Nate was 45. An additional nine people were missing in the region, weather officials said.

NOAA’s National Hurricane Center is responsible for issuing tropical cyclone forecasts and warnings for both the Atlantic and eastern North Pacific basins.

“They’ll never be used again,” Feltgen said of the retired names. “But the people who went through it will never forget them.”

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