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Q&A: How tropical storms are named

The naming of tropical storms

How do tropical storms get named? I'd like to submit my name, Elvina.

The National Hurricane Center began naming storms in 1953 to better identify individual systems. It used female names only until 1979, when it began alternating men's and women's names.

The storm names, which are now maintained and updated by an international committee of the United Nations' World Meteorological Organization, are assigned for a six-year cycle, then the cycle is repeated unless a storm name is retired.

So, for example, we had a Josephine that caused some flooding in the Tampa Bay area in 1996, and we had a Josephine this summer too.

But there will never be another Katrina, because it, like the names of other particularly deadly storms, was retired. Seventy are in this category, including other familiar names as Andrew, Charley, Wilma and Hugo. Once a storm is retired, the WMO has to come up with a new name for that letter. Three "E" names won't be used again (Edna, Elena and Eloise) so perhaps Elvina will be in the mix someday. You can e-mail your suggestion to the WMO at

Storm names for 2008 are: Arthur, Bertha, Cristobal, Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gustav, Hanna, Ike, Josephine, Kyle, Laura, Marco, Nana, Omar, Paloma, Rene, Sally, Teddy, Vicky and Wilfred. These names will be used again in 2014.

Lightning rods are no hazard

I recently read that a lightning rod may protect your home against lightning. Is it possible it would also attract lightning? Where can we purchase one?

Lightning rods don't attract lightning that wouldn't have struck the house anyway, says Dr. Greg Forbes, severe weather expert at the Weather Channel.

The safety devices protect a building by drawing lightning current to them from other parts of the roof. The rod's metal pole has an attached cable running into the ground. When lightning strikes, it seeks the quickest way to the ground. However, lightning rods do not protect appliances from electrical surges that come through wiring when a bolt strikes lines near a house, Forbes says.

Check with an electrician or home improvement store regarding installation and purchase of lightning rods.

Bracelet was a gift from family

Today show host Meredith Vieira always wears a silver bracelet. Is there a special significance to this bracelet?

Meredith Vieira was asked that same question in December on her blog. She said she wears her charm bracelet every day because it was given to her by her family on Sept. 12, 2006 — the night before she started on NBC's Today.

Inscribed on the charm are the words "We are with you" on one side and "Love, Richard, Ben, Gabe, Lily" on the other. You can blog with Meredith at

Q&A: How tropical storms are named 09/14/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 15, 2008 7:29pm]
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