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When’s a hurricane going to be named after your buddy Ignacio?

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As Tropical Storm Erika comes barreling toward Florida and Tampa Bay sits menacingly inside the cone of uncertainty, the Tampa Bay Times wants you to know a bit about where those names come from and why some of us will sadly never become a hurricane.

According to the Times, the National Hurricane Center used a combination of letters and numbers to describe hurricanes. But apparently that wasn’t easy enough to market and lended to a bit of confusion.

With names, the storms almost take on their own persona. Floridians joke when one is named after a neighbor, friend or loved one. Watch out guys, Frank’s going to blow you away. LOL!

But there’s a method to those names.

First, it’s pretty obvious they are alphabetic. But did you know they rotate every six years. Our little menacing friend Erika won’t come about again until 2021. And, if she becomes even more of a pest and wreaks havoc the way hurricane beasts like Andrew or Katrina, they’ll never be back again.

Names of catastrophic storms are retired the same way the NHL dropped 99 after Gretzky’s retirement. It’s a way to ensure those storms go down in infamy.

And there are different names for different storms. Tropical storms in the Pacific have different names than those in the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico. Storms like Olaf or Ignacio won’t be a bother to Florida. Or the Caribbean or Cuba or Texas or Louisiana.

When names are retired and new ones added, that comes straight down from the World Meteorological Organization where storms may be named about as meticulously as babies.

So, what’s this year’s rotation? Well, we’ve already cycled through Ana, Bill, Claudette and Danny. And Erika is blowing through the Atlantic at this very moment.

Still to come if there are more storms are Fred, Grace, Henri (who is likely to be unpredictable based on his hipster ‘i’ instead of ‘y,’) Ida, Joaquin, Kate, Larry, Mindy, Nicholas, Odette, Peter, Rose, Sam, Teresa, Victor and Wanda.

Obscure letters aren’t included as evidenced by just 21 names instead of the 26 letters in the alphabet. If ever a hurricane season exceeds those names, hurricanes then resort to the Greek alphabet with names like Alpha or Beta. That, just so you know, happened in 2005.

The Greek names probably made for especially wild hurricane parties at fraternities.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email

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