Since 1950, when a formal naming process began, the monikers of 89 northeastern Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico hurricanes have been retired because of the deaths or excessive financial damage they caused. A list of 21 names is designated for each of six successive years; in year seven, the set from year one repeats, and so on. (Beyond 21, which is rare, names come from the Greek alphabet.) Retired names are replaced. A storm “Florence” formed eight times before it achieved infamy in 2018. In the mid-1900s fatalities may have been high even when damages were modest, in part because early-warning systems and emergency responses were not as effective as today. In recent times damages have mounted largely because coastal population and value of infrastructure have risen dramatically.
This article was originally published with the title "Hurricane Infamy" in Scientific American 323, 2, 78 (August 2020)