Irene? Too Normal: Queena, Gaston and Other Bizarre Hurricane Names

  • Share
  • Read Later
Handout/Getty Images

Yes, some people have jobs coming up with names for hurricanes. Easy? Not exactly. They are, after all, christening a raging rain beast that could wreak devastation and destroy human lives. How about Zelda, then? It’s got a nice ring to it.

Zelda was, in fact, on the original list of alphabetized hurricane names, drawn up in 1950 by the U.S. Weather Bureau to make it easier for people to remember which hurricane warnings they should be listening to.

(MORE: How are Hurricanes and Tropical Storms Named?)

Other outré selections from the list include Orva, Queena, Xenia and Ursa. (If you’re wondering why they’re all girls, good question. The Atlantic Ocean stopped being sexist and produced its first boy hurricane in 1979.)

The man first tasked with making the list, weather bureau official Norman Hagen, eventually turned to the parental bible What Shall We Name the Baby? for inspiration.

Why is the task so difficult? They have to come up with names that 1) haven’t been used before, 2) aren’t names of states, cities, months, times of day or types of weather, (that cuts out Georgia, Charlotte, Gail and Eve) 3) aren’t going to piss people off ( “Adolf” was excised in 2001).

(PHOTOS: U.S. East Coast Battens Down as Hurricane Irene Approaches)

What’s left? Well, “Gaston,” for one. And then there’s that old favorite “Hermine.”

The Geneva-based World Meteorological Organization now oversees the lists of 21 names, which are rotated with each reappearing once every seventh year. Particularly damaging storms’ names come off the list forever. In 2005, Katrina, Rita, Dennis, Stan, and Wilma were retired and replaced with Katia, Rina, Don, Sean and Whitney.

Should meteorologists ever be at a loss, here’s NewsFeed’s suggestion: Make a list using crazy celebrity baby names. Apple, Blanket, Coco, Diva Muffin all the way to Harper Seven, Kal-El, Moon Unit, Pilot Inspektor and Sailor Lee. There are plenty of them, and you can’t say they’re unmemorable.

MORE: Top 10 Wacky Celebrity Baby Names