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No more Katrinas

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 1:16 PM GMT on April 07, 2006

The Hurricane Season of 2005 now has another record--the most number of names ever retired in a season, five. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) announced yesterday that the names Dennis, Katrina, Rita, Stan, and Wilma would all be retired, due to the large loss of life and tremendous property damage these storms inflicted. For 2011, Dennis, Katrina, Rita, Stan and Wilma have been replaced with Don, Katia, Rina, Sean and Whitney, respectively. Since hurricanes were first given names in 1953, 67 names have been retired (the first being Carol and Hazel in 1954). The previous record for most retired names in a year was four in 1955, 1995 and 2004.

There is one rather amazing and ridiculous omission from the list of retired names for 2005--Hurricane Emily. Emily was the earliest-forming Category 5 hurricane on record in the Atlantic basin and the only known hurricane of that strength to occur during the month of July. Emily became a Category 5 hurricane with 160 mph winds and a 929 mb central pressure on July 17 2005, while located 115 miles southwest of Jamaica. The storm weakened somewhat before making landfall on the Mexican coast near Cozumel Island as a Category 4 storm with 135 mph winds and a storm surge of up to 15 feet. Emily went on to cross the Gulf of Mexico and slam ashore on the Mexican coast south of Brownsville, Texas, as a Category 3 hurricane. Emily killed one person on its passage over Grenada as a Category 1 hurricane, and five in Jamaica. Amazingly, no one died in Mexico as a result of Emily's two strikes as a major hurricane.

Figure 1. Emily has come and gone five times, and will be back again in 2011. Arlene, with nine appearances so far, and another scheduled in 2011, holds the record for most incarnations.

From what I understand about the process of retiring a hurricane's name, any country affected by a hurricane can request that a name be retired, and a pow-wow of big shots elected by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) meets to consider these requests and decide which names get retired. Presumably, Haiti did not request that Hurricane Gordon of 1994 get its name retired after it killed over 1100 people there, since the country was too embroiled in civil strife and recovery from the disaster to be concerned with such matters. It is possible that Mexico did not request retiring Emily's name, since Wilma's impact on the country far overshadowed Emily's. Still, what does a storm named Emily have to do to get its name retired? Three of Emily's five appearances have been worthy of retirement. I thought Emily should have been retired when I flew through the 1987 incarnation that slammed into the Hispanolia as a Category 3 hurricane. Certainly, the Category 3 version that brushed North Carolina in 1993 was worthy of retirement, as well. I can only conclude that a dark conspiracy is at work. A member of the WMO name retirement committe must have it in for someone with the name Emily, and is determined that her name never be retired.

Severe weather threat today
Yesterday's tornado outbreak did not materialize as expected, much to the relief of those in the Central U.S. Nineteen reports of tornadoes in Kansa, Oklahoma, and MIssouri were received by the Storm Prediction Center. Most of these tornadoes crossed unpopulated farmland, although damage to several homes and 12 minor injuries were reported in Chetopa, Kansas. Residents of Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and surrounding states may not be as lucky today. Conditions appear more favorable today for the appearance of violent long-track tornadoes over these states in the late afternoon today.

Figure 2. Severe weather outlook for today.

Jeff Masters

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.