As you make preparations for Tropical Storm Idalia, which is likely to become a major hurricane soon, you may be wondering: How do I say this name?
We’ve compiled a quick guide to your hurricane name questions, including how the practice got started, why there are so many “I” letter names of note and what names you might be hearing next.
How do you pronounce Idalia, and what does the name mean?
It’s pronounced Ee-DAL-ya, according to the Atlantic basin storm name pronunciation list published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.
Several baby-naming websites say Idalia is a name of Greek or Spanish origin and means “behold the sun” or simply “the sun.” In Greek mythology, it was linked to Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and love.
How are storm names picked?
The practice of naming storms after women dates back to World War II. In 1953, the National Hurricane Center picked up the practice for naming Atlantic storms. Male names weren’t assigned until 1979.
The World Meteorological Organization keeps six rotating name lists for tropical cyclones in each of the three basins they cover (Central North Pacific, East North Pacific and Atlantic).
After six years, the cycle repeats and the names are recycled. Names linked to particularly devastating storms, like Katrina, are kicked off the list. That’s how we got Idalia, which entered the rotation when Irma was retired after the 2017 season.
Each list has 21 names, with male and female names alternating. Even-numbered years start with male names; odd-numbered years, like 2023, begin with female names. The same internal WMO committee that makes the alphabet name lists also approves a list of alternate names in the event that there are more than 21 storms in a season.
Why do so many “I” letter names get retired?
Last year, Ian became the 13th “I” name to be retired. That letter has the most retired storm names.
This could be because of several factors, the Washington Post explained in 2021. Part of it is timing, with “I” names tending to hit near the peak of hurricane season, which happens between mid-August and the end of September.
“With warm ocean temperatures and the absence of disruptive high-altitude winds, conditions are typically prime for hurricane development just when ‘I’ is reached on the alphabetical list of storms,” Post reporter Brian McNoldy wrote.
Here are the other retired “I” names:
- Ione (Sept. 10-21, 1955)
- Inez (Sept. 21-Oct. 11, 1966)
- Iris (Oct. 4-9, 2001)
- Isidore (Sept. 14-27, 2002)
- Isabel (Sept. 6-20, 2003)
- Ivan (Sept. 2-24, 2004)
- Ike (Sept. 1-15, 2008)
- Igor (Sept. 8-23, 2010)
- Irene (Aug. 20-28, 2011)
- Ingrid (Sept. 12-17, 2013)
- Irma (Aug. 30-Sept. 12, 2017)
- Ida (Aug. 26-Sept. 2, 2021)
- Ian (Sept. 23-30, 2022)
Where else have we seen the name Idalia?
Wikipedia has listed only a few famous Idalias: Cuban actor Idalia Anreus, Anguillan politician Idalia Gumbs and Cuban sprinter Idalia Hechavarría.
Idalia is the name of several places, including unincorporated communities in Colorado and Missouri. It is also the name of a suburb of Queensland, Australia.
Which names are left for the 2023 hurricane season?
We’ve already run through Arlene, Bret, Cindy, Don, Emily, Franklin, Gert and Harold.
Up next: Jose, Katia, Lee, Margot, Nigel, Ophelia, Philippe, Rina, Sean, Tammy, Vince and Whitney.
The other “I” letter names on the Atlantic storm naming lists are Isaac, Imelda, Isaias, Imani and Idris.
Information from the Tampa Bay Times archive was used in this report.
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