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Six Sports Team Names Inspired by Local Weather Phenomenon

The name of a sports team holds a significant amount of importance to the local city or region for which it is located. For many, the team's name can become almost as important as wins and losses as it shows why where they live is uniquely different.

In certain parts of the country, a team name can signify an important time in history, such as the San Francisco 49ers and the California gold rush of 1849, or the Philadelphia 76ers and the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 to name just a couple of examples.

In other cases, several professional organizations, as well as college athletic programs, have adopted a specific weather phenomenon known to their region. In several situations, the fans themselves have made it clear that the weather is the best way for the franchise to be known.

Here are six teams that remind us of local weather phenomena every time they take to the field, ice or hardwood.

Tampa Bay Lightning

As the story goes, hockey hall of famer and team founder, Phil Esposito, settled on the name as he watched a lightning storm approaching over the bay from his backyard.

Tampa Bay has often declared itself the "Lightning Capital of the World." While that may not be 100 percent accurate, the city, and the state as a whole, gets a fair share of thunderstorms.

So far this year, there have been 19 reported lightning fatalities according to the National Weather Service. Of the 19 deaths, six have occurred in Florida.

Miami Heat

(Photo/Flickr user Bob B Brown)

Heat and abundant sunshine is synonymous with Miami, so it's no surprise that the people of Miami decided on the Heat name for its basketball franchise.

As Heat co-founder Zev Bufman put it, "When you think of Miami, that's what you think of."

The franchise was born in 1988 and the name was chosen over several others (also via a fan contest) including beaches, suntan, shade and tornadoes.

The Heat aren't the only team named after weather in Miami's athletic landscape, as the University of Miami's athletic teams are dubbed the Hurricanes.

Oklahoma City Thunder

After relocating from Seattle, the previously named SuperSonics became the Thunder in time for the 2008-2009 season.

The Thunder name suits the franchise nicely, as Oklahoma City gets plenty of severe weather, since it is located in the heart of Tornado Alley.

Before settling on Thunder, the team reportedly also applied for trademarks for "Wind" and "Energy."

Omaha Storm Chasers

The AAA affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, the franchise had its name changed in 2011 as a result of a fan contest.

"The team name recognizes the importance of weather in the metro area and across the state," Vice President and General Manager Martie Cordaro said in a press release at the time.

"It also, in a whimsical way, pokes a little fun at the variety of weather we experience here," he said.

Since Omaha happens to reside in Tornado Alley, it's the ideal spot for storm chasers to make their living.

Carolina Hurricanes

(Photo/ Flickr user Benjamin Reed)

Like the Thunder, the Hurricanes came into existence as the result of relocation. Before moving to Raleigh, North Carolina, for the 1997-98 seasons, the team played in Hartford, Connecticut, and was known as the Whalers.

According to a Sportsnet article, the team was named by the owner Peter Karmanos Jr. as a result of the tight timeline of the franchise's move and he settled quickly on the Hurricanes name because of how common they are to the state.

The hurricane name suits the franchise well, as the Carolinas frequently are targeted by hurricanes and tropical storms. Already this year, the only Atlantic hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. so far, Arthur, caused flooding and localized damage in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Tri-City Dust Devils

Located in Pasco, Washington, the Tri-City Dust Devils were founded in 2001. The short-season, single-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, their name was also a product of a fan contest.

"The team name fits the area well as we have occasional windstorms that blow a lot of dirt around," said Matt Ward, the team's media relations coordinator.

Dust devils have been in the news quite a bit recently. There have been multiple dust devil incidents involving inflatable bounce slides or house in the past few months. The most recent case occurred in July, when a dust devil forced an inflatable slide airborne at a Fourth of July celebration in Sparks, Nevada.