Committee Retires Four 2017 Hurricane Names

The World Meteorological Organization maintains rotating lists of names that are appropriate for each tropical cyclone basin. In the Atlantic and Eastern North Pacific, male and female names alternate alphabetically, and the lists are used every six years. But if a hurricane is particularly deadly or costly, its name is retired and is replaced by a different name.

The World Meteorological Organization's Hurricane Committee, meeting in Martinique, France, April 9-13 to review the devastating 2017 Atlantic hurricane season and to discuss regional coordination and operational planning for the 2018 season, has retired the names Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate from its list of rotating names. They will be replaced by Harold, Idalia, Margot, and Nigel for the 2023 season.

WMO maintains rotating lists of names that are appropriate for each tropical cyclone basin. In the Atlantic and Eastern North Pacific, male and female names alternate alphabetically, and the lists are used every six years. But if a hurricane is particularly deadly or costly, its name is retired and is replaced by a different name.

The agency noted that 2017 Atlantic season was both extremely active and one of the most destructive on record. Damage costs exceeded $250 billion in the United States alone, while recovery for the worst-hit Caribbean islands such as Dominica may take years. It was the first time three category 4 hurricanes made landfall in the United States and six category 5 landfalls occurred across the Caribbean basin, these being from Irma and Maria.

WMO's Regional Specialized Meteorological Center Miami, which is under the responsibility of the U.S. National Hurricane Center, reported that, of the 17 named tropical storms that formed during 2017, 10 became hurricanes and six reached major hurricane strength (category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale). The 1981-2010 averages are 12 tropical storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes.

"Given the exceptional nature of the 2017 season, the WMO RAIV Hurricane Committee is scheduled for five rather than the traditional four days. It is considering detailed reports from all affected countries and territories and operational planning for the 2018 season with an aim to increase disaster resilience," WMO reported. The meeting is chaired by Kenneth Graham, the new director of NOAA's National Hurricane Center.

Harvey cost an estimated $125 billion, the second-most costly hurricane in U.S. history, and at least 68 people died from the direct effects of the storm in Texas. Irma remained at category 5 strength for 60 hours in early September while hitting numerous Caribbean islands; it was the first category 5 hurricane to make landfall in Cuba since 1932. Maria struck Dominica on Sept. 19 as a category 5 and caused catastrophic damage there, and it was still a category 4 hurricane when it reached Puerto Rico as the strongest storm to hit the island since 1928. NOAA's estimate of damage in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands due to Maria is $90 billion, making it the third-costliest hurricane in U.S. history; Maria caused 31 direct deaths with 34 missing in Dominica, two deaths in Guadeloupe, and a total of 65 deaths in Puerto Rico, a number that includes an unknown number of indirect deaths, according to WMO.

Nate crossed northeastern Nicaragua and eastern Honduras as a tropical storm, then made landfall on the northern Gulf Coast as a category 1 hurricane. WMO said media reports in Central America indicate the hurricane caused 44 deaths in the region. One additional death in Panama was due to a "shipwreck," bringing the death toll directly associated with Nate to 45.

The 2005 hurricane season holds the record for the most names retired, with five: Dennis, Katrina, Rita, Stan, and Wilma were removed from the rotating list that year.

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