Thursday, June 8, 2017 Page 5

June 8, 2017

A woman cries amid the rubble of her home, destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in Baracoa, Cuba, on October. 5, last year. The name Matthew has now been retired.

wo deadly hurricanes last year saw their names being retired. In September / October Hurricane Matthew, a Category 5 hurricane, killed 603 people in the Antilles and southeastern United States with winds up to 165mph. It caused $15.1 billion worth of damage. In November Hurricane Otto killed 23 people in Panama, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua and caused $190 million worth of damage. Hurricane Otto was a Category 3 hurricane. Hurricane Joaquin, which hit Bermuda in 2015, had its name retired along with Hurricane Patricia and Tropical Storm Erika. Hurricane names are retired by the World Meteorological Organization from its rotating list in light of the death and destruction the storms have caused. Including Erika and Joaquin, 82 Atlantic hurricane and tropical storm names have now been retired. But Bermuda got off very lightly in 2015 when Joaquin approached. Before arriving in Bermuda, Hurricane Joaquin battered the Bahamas in October killing 34 people ? all at sea ? including the 33 crew members of the cargo ship El Faro, which sank during the storm northeast of the Bahamas. While the island was ready for Joaquin after it left the Bahamas, the hurricane in the end proved to be much milder than either Hurricanes Fay or Gonzalo, which struck in 2014. More than 15,000 homes in Bermuda lost power when Joaquin struck. Joaquin which was a Category 4 storm when it hit the Bahamas, was a Category 3 storm as it approached Bermuda but then fell to a Category 2 as it passed 85 miles to the west. The island weathered hurricane-force winds: 50 knots gusting to 60 knots (58mph to 69mph) were clocked at the airport, while the Bermuda Weather Service received reports of 80-knot winds gusting to 100 knots (92mph to 115mph) in elevated areas. Between five and six inches of rain fell. The West End bore the brunt of Joaquin?s passing, with one casualty being Dockyard?s historic Commissioner?s House. A year after its roof suffered extensive damage from Fay and Gonzalo, the last of the building?s old roof was torn away during the storm and a chimney was destroyed. ?It was another big blow to us when we were just getting back on our feet ? it looks really bad, but we will rebuild,? said Elena Strong, the curator for the National Museum of Bermuda. There was some water damage to the interior, but no exhibits or artefacts were damaged. Hurricane Joaquin also forced two cruise ships to abandon their trips to Bermuda and put a significant dent in the island?s container ship schedules. Tropical Storm Erika, which lashed the Caribbean killing 30, is only the second tropical storm to have its name retired. Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 was the only other retiree never to attain hurricane status. Allison, which caused $9 billion in damages, spurred one of the worst floods on record in Houston. The World Meteorological Organization reuses storm names every six years for both the Atlantic and eastern Pacific basins. The nation hardest hit by a storm can request its name be removed because the storm was so deadly or costly that future use of the name would be insensitive. The removal also avoids confusion caused by a future storm having the same name. Such was the case with Hurricane Fabian which struck Bermuda in 2003 when four people died after being swept away on the Causeway. Originally, hurricanes were given the names of saints who were honoured on the day they occurred, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. For example, Hurricane Santa Ana of 1825 hit on July 26, the day dedicated to Saint Anne. If two hurricanes struck on the same day, the newer tempest had a suffix tacked on to its name. For example, Hurricane San Felipe struck Puerto Rico on September 13, 1876, and another storm hit the area on September 13, 1928. The latter storm was named Hurricane San Felipe II. Later, latitude-longitude positions were used in the naming process. However, this cumbersome identification method was confusing during radio communication and more subject to error, according to NOAA. The United States nixed it in 1951 in favour of a naming system based on the phonetic alphabet (including names such as Able, Baker and Charlie) developed by the military. This system also proved to be too confusing, so in 1953, weather forecasters began using names assigned by NOAA?s National Hurricane Center. Initially, all hurricane names were female, with the first ?girl? hurricane named Maria, after the heroine of the 1941 novel Storm by George Rippey Stewart, according to NOAA. ?In a very wise move, men?s names were introduced in 1979, and are now rotated with women?s names,? said Dennis Feltgen, a spokesperson for the National Hurricane Center. Now, hurricane names are determined by the World Meteorological Organization headquartered in Geneva. For Atlantic tropical storms, the National Hurricane Center created six lists of hurricane names that are maintained and updated by the WMO through an international voting committee. The lists contain French, Spanish, Dutch and English names because ?hurricanes affect other nations and are tracked by the public and weather services of many countries,? according to NOAA. While names of hurricanes previously included names from A to Z (for example, hurricane names from 1958 included Udele, Virgy, Wilna, Xrae, Yurith and Zorna), current lists exclude Q, U, X, Y and Z because there are not enough names starting with these letters to include them, Mr Feltgen said. The lists do change, however. If a storm is especially devastating, such as Fabian in 2003 which struck Bermuda resulting in loss of life, a vote is taken by the WMO to determine whether it would be inappropriate to use the name again. If a name is taken off the list, another name that shares its first letter is selected and voted to replace it, Mr Feltgen said. The names chosen for this year are: Arlene, Bret, Cindy, Don, Emily, Franklin, Gert, Harvey, Irma, Jose, Katia, Lee, Maria, Nate, Ophelia, Philippe, Rina, Sean, Tammy, Vince, Whitney.

Before, during and after a storm, count on BF&M.

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