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The Story Behind Storms' Names

E-mail Janice Dean

Hi there FOX fans! This is my first weather blog for the site, so I want lots of feedback! I thought a good first topic would be our very first hurricane of the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season … the one that dreadfully has the same last name as mine! Then, maybe you can send me suggestions of what you would like to see on a future blog! So, let’s get started …

Hurricane Dean will go down in the record books as one of the most powerful storms in the Atlantic. Dean made landfall on Tuesday morning into Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. It’s sustained winds of 165 mph made it the highest rated hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

Dean is also the first Category 5 hurricane to make landfall since Hurricane Andrew roared through South Florida in 1992. Dean’s pressure was 906 millibars (this is how we measure just how powerful the storm is) and had the third lowest pressure at landfall behind the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane in the Florida Keys and Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 in Cancun, Mexico. In other words, Dean was a wickedly mean weather machine! (And, unfortunately caused many deaths along its furious rampage.)

So what’s out there looming next out there? Well, we are entering the peak season of Atlantic hurricanes — so expect to see the F-storm, Felix, brewing sometime soon. We were monitoring a tropical wave near Puerto Rico a few days ago, but that has not shown any promise of developing as of this writing. Remember, the hurricane season ends November 30 and the warm waters are ready for more monsters weather systems to get their act together.

So back to the name thing — Dean. A lot of people asked me if I was excited to see my name on a storm. I was kind of dreading it actually. I jokingly get blamed for the rainy weekends and the nasty forecasts … this could be a free-for-all! Thankfully, not too many people went down that road with me. It also made me want to do a little research into how storms get their names …

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) picks the names — so I had nothing to do with it I swear! Before that, they used the latitude and longitude to identify these big ocean events. That method became quite confusing (no kidding!) so in 1953, the National Weather Service decided to do what the Naval meteorologists were doing — naming the storms after women! (I think I read that some named the tropical swirls after their girlfriends and wives) Hey — why not — if Mother Nature controls the weather, why not name temperamental angry storms after female right? (NOT!) In the end, all of these nasty storms received a girl’s name. Can you believe it wasn’t until the late 70s they decided to put some male names into the mix?

The other thing worth mentioning is there are six lists of names in use for storms in the Atlantic. These lists rotate, so six years from now, you’ll see another tropical storm/hurricane Erin or Chantal … the one exception is storms that have caused major devastation. You will never see another Andrew or Katrina on a storm list since both of these Hurricanes were catastrophic — and not surprisingly, the name Katrina is not very popular for little girls anymore. This is the sad reality of having storms being “named” like you would a newborn child.

So this may be a good question to end with: what do you think about tropical systems being named? I always wondered why we’ve never known what Mother Nature’s real name was … perhaps that’s the lesson here — that no one should be blamed for the weather … including the weather girl!


Janice Dean is a meteorologist for FNC. To read more of her bio, please click here.

Janice Dean is senior meteorologist for Fox News Channel.