Friday, August 22, 2008

Bad Behavior of Hurricanes and Senators

Hurricane names are like Senators. If the hurricane doesn't make much of a commotion they get to come back every six years. But do something disastrous and they get retired, leaving us to talk for years to come about the damage they've done and the billions they have cost us.

Hurricane Arlene is the Daniel Inouye (D-HI 1963-Present) of storm names. Every 6 years she has a chance to wreak some havoc but she never seems to cause much trouble. She first appeared in 1959 as a tropical storm and returned as a hurricane in 1963, 1967 and as a tropical storm again in 1971. She took a decade off before welling up again in 1981. In 1979, a list of 21 names went into circulation, followed in the next 5 years by 5 distinct sets of names which would rotate from year to year. So Arlene returned again in 1987, 1993, 1999 and again in 2005. Being the first of the storms named and often early in the season, she rarely has a chance to be anything special but she's tried 9 times.

Initially storms were only given names if they were horribly destructive like the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900 and the Great Miami Hurricane in 1926. From 1950-1952 storms were named based on the army alphabet - Able, Baker, Charlie, etc.

In 1953, The National Hurricane Center began using women's names. The feminine touch softened the blow of having your community razed and flooded by an act of God.

Names were reflective of the times - Gilda, Hazel, Mabel, Norma, Roxie, Edith, Flora. The didn't push it and Harriet never made the list. They went so far as to schedule the X, Y and Z. Although they were never used, if they needed to, no one would have forgotten Hurricane Xmay, Yurith or Zorna.

A four year rotation of women's names was used from 1960-1978. And the 6 year cycle began in 1979 and included men's names.

The World Meteorological Organization allows for the retirement of storm names if they are particularly deadly, costly or silly sounding. The country affected can request the retirement and the name is stricken from the rotation if the WMO deems it worthy. Hazel was the first of the naughty storms and she was retired in 1954, followed by 39 other storms. The last being Noel in 2007 who ironically hit the North Pole.

The only exception to the rule was when Fern was dropped and replaced by Frieda for no particular reason. Possibly because Fern is a type of plant. Significant of nothing, I once had a hamster named Fern.

Senators are retired in a similar fashion. Do bad things and your retirement will be arranged for you. Affairs, financial scandals and "pooping" in airport bathrooms are the equivalent of flooding, 150 mph winds and hitting Greenland.

But if the worst thing you've ever done is rain in the middle of the Atlantic or filibuster a Republican majority you'll be hangin' 10 year after year on the Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development.

Although "only" a tropical storm, Fay has proven to be the Larry Craig of storms, causing persistent trouble and won't seem to go away.


  1. I love the comparison between Fay and Larry Craig!

  2. Fay was supposed to dissapear once it hit land and Larry Craig was supposed to retire...Eventually they will both go away. :)

  3. I read your blog about senators pooping in airports with hurricane strength. Good one.

    By the way, Tropical Storm Gordon (not the later hurricane) killed 2400 people, all in floods, as it weaved back and forth across the Caribbean, Florida and the other states. Andrew only got 84. People worry too much about high winds instead of flooding.

    Bt then they re-elect bozos.

    Jungle Pop

  4. was my blog about senators pooping or did you read it while pooping with hurricane strength?