You were Tropical Storm Sandy. Then Hurricane Sandy. But it was as Superstorm Sandy that you will be remembered.
Massive and deadly, Superstorm Sandy extended for more than 1,000 miles across the northeast United States leaving a trail of death and destruction behind her, and then she was gone.
Now it’s “Sandy’s Aftermath” we see on the TV news. We see wrecked homes and people lining up for gas and food.
Why do we give these agents of destruction such cute names like Sandy? Why do we give them names at all?
It goes back to the early days of meteorology in the United States when storms were named with a latitude/longitude designation representing the location where the storm originated. Not surprisingly, these references were difficult to remember, hard to communicate and subject to errors.
During the Second World War, military meteorologists working in the Pacific began to use the names of wives and girlfriends for storms to make communication easier. It caught on and in 1953 the method was adopted by the National Hurricane Center for use on storms originating in the Atlantic Ocean.
As they say about so many things — if you want to own an issue, give it a name. Hurricane names quickly became part of our language and public awareness and interest in hurricanes increased dramatically.
Hurricanes begin as tropical storms, like Tropical Storm Sandy. If the storm reaches a sustained wind speed of 74 miles per hour, it officially becomes a hurricane with the same name.
In 1978, meteorologists began using men’s names for Atlantic tropical storms. For each year, a list of 21 names, each starting with a different letter of the alphabet, is developed and arranged in alphabetical order (names beginning with the letters Q, U, X, Y and Z are not used). During even-numbered years, like 2012, men’s names are given to the odd-numbered storms and during odd-numbered years, women’s names were given to odd-numbered storms. The next one up after Sandy is Tony.
The only change time a change is made to the list is when a name is retired.
The first three male names used — Bob, David and Frederick — have all been put out to pasture because of the damage they caused. Bob was withdrawn from duty after Hurricane Bob hit New England in 1991.
The notorious Katrina will not be used again after her rampage in 2005. She joined Dennis, Rita, Stan and Wilma in that year of destruction.
And Sandy, once an name that evoked a golden haired lass so fair of face, you will never be the same again. You are now a synonym for death and destruction on a vast scale. You will be next on the retired list.