A hurricane named Pinocchio? Well, not likely. And no, I really did not overdose on an extra bowl of my favorite sugary golden puffs cereal. But one of journalism axioms is that catchy headlines will hook readers. Gotcha!
More than a century ago, hurricanes in the West Indies took their names from the calendar of saints. The first was Hurricane Santa Ana that struck Puerto Rico on July 26, 1825, according to the National Hurricane Center. But before uniform hurricane naming came to be, again per the National Hurricane Center, the latitude and longitude of a storm’s position was used to determine its name. So a hurricane located at 28*08’55.7”N67*56’47.0W would have been called exactly that. Not exactly a catchy name for the media folks. And ultimately, the World Meteorological Organization started using actual names for storms, a move which obviously made it easier for the media to report them and to issue warnings and create community awareness.
Today, the World Meteorological Organization is responsible for the list of names used to name hurricanes around the globe in the five oceans. There are six alphabetical lists for Atlantic Ocean hurricanes that are decided well in advance and are rotated every six years. And there are always 21 names on these lists. So if you’re still here with me, the names for 2016 hurricanes are: Alex, Bonnie, Collin, Danielle, Earl, Fiona, Gaston, Hermine, Ian, Julia, Karl, Lisa, Matthew, Nicole, Otto, Paula, Rolland, Shary, Tobias, Virginia and Walter. And if you notice, they alternate between male and female names.
So if your name is on the list, it’s random. Consider yourself lucky, or unlucky. It all depends how you look at it.
The Weather Channel, which marches to a different drummer, three years ago released its own guidelines for naming winter storms. They had to meet the National Weather Service winter storm warning criteria: the storm needs to affect at least two million people or cover more than 400,000 square kilometers, an area larger than the size of Texas. And so in 2013 we all became aware of winter storm Nemo.
But if you are still hoping for Hurricane Pinocchio that may well turn out to be another one of many life’s disappointments…