Before 1953, tropical storms and hurricanes were simply tracked by year and the order in which they occurred. But this led to confusion and false information. Advisories were broadcast and mistaken for entirely different storms located hundreds of miles away. So in 1953 the U.S. began using female names. In 1978 male names were added for Northern Pacific storms and a year later for Atlantic ones. They found they were easily remembered this way with far less confusion when two or more storms were happening at the same time.

Now how does the National Hurricane Center come up with those names? They don't. It's actually done by the World Meteorological Organization. For Atlantic hurricanes, the ones we're concerned with, a list of male and female names are used on a six-year rotation. For example, as Florence heads for the Carolinas, another Florence is scheduled to be the sixth storm in 2024. Then again in 2030. The only time these names are retired, kind of like when an athlete's number is retired, is when a storm was so infamous, deadly and costly that its future use would be too troubling. Katrina, for example, will never be used again.

They always skip the Q's and the U's, and they stop with W. If more than 21 storms happen in a given season they they move on to names from the Greek alphabet.

So after Florence, what names are left for this year?

Gordon
Helene
Isaac
Joyce
Kirk
Leslie
Michael
Nadine
Oscar
Patty
Rafael
Sara
Tony
Valerie
William

Didn't make the cut? Here's the list of all hurricane names for the entire 6 year cycle, starting with 2018 and ending with 2023.

2018
Alberto
Beryl
Chris
Debby
Ernesto
Florence
Gordon
Helene
Isaac
Joyce
Kirk
Leslie
Michael
Nadine
Oscar
Patty
Rafael
Sara
Tony
Valerie
William

2019
Andrea
Barry
Chantal
Dorian
Erin
Fernand
Gabrielle
Humberto
Imelda
Jerry
Karen
Lorenzo
Melissa
Nestor
Olga
Pablo
Rebekah
Sebastien
Tanya
Van
Wendy

2020
Arthur
Bertha
Cristobal
Dolly
Edouard
Fay
Gonzalo
Hanna
Isaias
Josephine
Kyle
Laura
Marco
Nana
Omar
Paulette
Rene
Sally
Teddy
Vicky
Wilfred

2021
Ana
Bill
Claudette
Danny
Elsa
Fred
Grace
Henri
Ida
Julian
Kate
Larry
Mindy
Nicholas
Odette
Peter
Rose
Sam
Teresa
Victor
Wanda

2022
Alex
Bonnie
Colin
Danielle
Earl
Fiona
Gaston
Hermine
Ian
Julia
Karl
Lisa
Martin
Nicole
Owen
Paula
Richard
Shary
Tobias
Virginie
Walter

2023
Arlene
Bret
Cindy
Don
Emily
Franklin
Gert
Harold
Idalia
Jose
Katia
Lee
Margot
Nigel
Ophelia
Philippe
Rina
Sean
Tammy
Vince
Whitney

Didn't make the list? It's okay. Neither did I.

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