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Q&A: Three hurricane names from 2008 — Gustav, Ike and Paloma — have been retired

Hurricane Ike did extensive damage in Texas when it made landfall in September 2008.

Associated Press (2008)

Hurricane Ike did extensive damage in Texas when it made landfall in September 2008.

No more Gustav, Ike or Paloma

Were any hurricane names from 2008 retired?

Timely question. Today is the first day of the hurricane system, which runs through Nov. 30. Experts are predicting a normal year. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says to expect nine to 14 named storms, including four to seven hurricanes and one to three major storms.

Back to the question: The names of three Atlantic storms from 2008 were retired because of the deaths and damage they caused. They are:

• Gustav, which became a hurricane Aug. 26 and hit Haiti as a Category 1 storm, Cuba as a Category 4 and Louisiana as a Category 2. It killed 112 people, 77 of them in Haiti, and caused $4 billion worth of damage just in Louisiana.

• Ike, which became a hurricane Sept. 3 and hammered the Turks and Caicos Islands and Cuba as a Category 4 storm, and Galveston Island, Texas, as a Category 2. It killed 100, and U.S. property damage was $19.3 billion.

• Paloma became a hurricane Nov. 7 and pounded Cuba a day later as a Category 4 storm. More than 1,400 homes were destroyed.

United States: tornado central

The United States evidently leads the world in the number of tornadoes each year. Are there any other countries that experience tornadoes? What are they and how do they rank in the number of occurrences compared to the United States?

The United States east of the Rocky Mountains, where cold, dry air from the mountains meets the warm, humid climate of the Gulf of Mexico, is indeed the world's tornado central, with an average of about 1,200 observed twisters a year.

But tornadoes can and do cover a broad swath of the globe. For example, German researcher Nikolai Dotzek determined there are about 170 confirmed tornado sightings in Europe each year, many of them in the lowlands of Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Germany on and near the North Sea. That's one-seventh the U.S. rate, though the land area is also smaller.

The Encyclopedia Britannica says tornadoes are most common between 20 degrees and 60 degrees latitude north and south of the equator: anywhere in which strong thunderstorms develop amid the clash of warm and cold air.

In the Northern Hemisphere, that ranges from the Yucatan Peninsula to the center of Hudson Bay, while in the south, it's a region extending from southern Brazil to Tierra del Fuego.

Update

Robert A. Freedman, president and CEO of Ruth Eckerd Hall and the Ruth Eckerd Hall Foundation, wrote to alert readers that singer Paul Potts, a Britain's Got Talent contestant and subject of a question in the May 22 Ask the Times column, is appearing at 7 p.m. July 12 at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater.

Q&A: Three hurricane names from 2008 — Gustav, Ike and Paloma — have been retired 05/31/09 [Last modified: Sunday, May 31, 2009 4:30am]
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