About Names: Hurricanes can cause a brief rise in a name’s popularity, then a drop

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his August 29th column, he looks at the history of hurricane names.

During World War II American meteorologists commonly gave women’s names to storms they tracked. This was practical: Using names is quicker and less error-prone than the previous latitude-longitude identification method. It reduces confusion when two or more tropical storms are active — as illustrated recently with Laura and Marco.

In 1951 and 1952, the National Hurricane Center used a phonetic alphabet (Able, Baker, Charlie, etc.) to name tropical storms. In 1953, it began using lists of women’s names. In 1979, male names were added, six rotating lists were created and the task of maintaining the lists turned over to a committee of the World Meteorological Organization.

How do hurricanes affect baby names? Names of infamous hurricanes often bump upward for babies in the year they occur, and then fall back. Katrina, which had been receding, rose 13% in 2005. Since 2005, it’s nosedived as “Katrina” has become an ongoing symbol of disaster. Similar if less sharp rises and falls occurred with Camille (1969), Celia (1970), Mitch (1998), Lili (2002), Charley (2004), Ike (2008) and Sandy (2012).