Tropical storms and hurricanes are given names to avoid confusion when more than
one storm is being followed at the same time. A storm is named when it reaches
tropical storm strength with winds of 39 mph. A storm becomes a hurricane when
its wind speed reaches 75 mph.
Separate sets of hurricane names are used in the central Pacific, eastern
Pacific, and the Atlantic Basin, which includes the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf
of Mexico. The World Meteorological Organization's Region 4 Hurricane Committee
selects the names for Atlantic Basin storms. The names are English, Spanish and
French - the languages spoken in the national Atlantic Basin storms hit. They
alternate between male and female names. The group has selected six sets of
names, which means each set of names is used again each six years.
Forecasters begin using names in 1950. In that year and in 1951, names were from
the international phonetic alphabet in use at the time - Able, Baker, Charlie,
etc. Female, English-language names were used beginning in 1953.
Alternating male and female names were first used to name Atlantic Basin
hurricanes in 1979. This was also the first year that French and Spanish names,
as well as English, were used. The first three male names used, Bob, David and
Frederick have all been retired because
they did tremendous damage. Frederick and David were retired because of the
damage they did in 1979. Bob was retired after a hurricane by that name hit New
England in 1991.
The first storm each year in the Atlantic Basin and in the eastern Pacific gets
an 'A' name. But the year's first hurricane in the central Pacific from 140
degrees west longitude to the International Date Line and the first typhoon west
of the Date Line get the next available name on the list, no matter what letter
it begins with..
Source: The USA TODAY Weather Book
by Jack Williams