Kerry Speckman shares her unique perspective and observations on people, places and events on the First Coast and beyond. She's also the 2012 winner of Jacksonville Dancing With the Stars, so she's got that going for her.
The practice of identifying specific hurricanes began back in the 1700s when storms were referred to by the year and the location in which they took place. In World War II, meteorologists named hurricanes after their wives and girlfriends on the homefront (how romantic). A tthe urging of feminist groups in the 1960s, men's names were added to the mix in 1979.*
Today, the National Weather Service has a list of names for hurricanes prepared years in advance. While this system may be great for science types, it doesn’t do much to much to help laypeople keep them straight.
Plus, I always think it’s weird to hear potentially deadly storms referred to by people’s names as if a friend is coming to visit for the weekend: “Chantal should arrive in Jacksonville Saturday morning.”
As a result, I’ve come up with my own local hurricane naming system where storms are given a number and are formally named after they make landfall based on what happened — or didn’t. (Note: By taking this tongue-in-cheek approach to classifying storms, I am in no way intending to minimize the devastation caused by severe weather. Nor am I suggesting that residents disregard severe weather warnings. I'm merely poking fun at local news media and their philsophy that "rain reigns.")
Here, then, are a few of the more recent storms that you probably heard of — but might not remember—and my suggestions for new names.
Tropical Storm Fay (August 2008): A tropical wave moved off the coast of Africa toward the Virgin islands and Puerto Rico and within a week was designated a tropical storm. She spent seven days in Florida touching down in the Florida Keys, Cape Romano, Flagler Beach and the Panhandle. But in Jacksonville, Tropical Storm Fay is better known as The One That Caused Corrine Brown to Call the City and Have Sandbags Delivered to Her House.
Hurricane Irene (August 2011): Originating in the Lesser Antilles and quickly developing into a category 3 hurricane over the warm waters of the Bahamas, Hurricane Irene was downgraded to a category 1 storm by the time she made landfall in the Outerbanks of North Carolina. Irene wreaked havoc along much of the East Coast making it the seventh costliest hurricane in U.S. history. Around these parts, Mother Nature was more of a curiosity than a threat, though, with folks flocking to to the beach to see palm fronds scattered in the streets and the Atlantic Ocean churn, making Hurricane Irene The One That Produced Totally Awesome Waves.
Tropical Storm Beryl (May 2012): Showing up several weeks before the “official” start of hurricane season, Beryl made landfall in Jacksonville with peak winds of 70 mph. A significant amount of rain did cause flooding in some areas, though, meteorologists considered it beneficial as the area was in a drought at the time. The Mathews Bridge was closed, and flights were canceled. But to most of us, Beryl will be known as The One That Ruined Memorial Day Weekend and/or The One That Caused the Jazz Festival to End a Day Early.
Tropical Storm Andrea (June 2013): Last month, “disturbed weather” in the Caribbean eventually strengthened into a Tropical Storm with winds peaking at 65 mph. Andrea first made landfall in Dixie County, spawning several tornadoes, but leaving Jacksonville unscathed. Sure, there was some heavy rain, but even local news stations had difficulty making it into something it wasn’t. Case in point: this overly dramatic live report from First Coast News.
FCN did attempt to give Andrea a more relevant name to local residents: The One That Snarled Traffic on San Jose Boulevard. But I, for one, prefer The One That We Didn’t Even Realize Was a Tropical Storm Because It Rains All of the Time in Florida in the Summer.
Tropical Storm Chantal (July 2013): What started out as a tropical wave near the Cape Verde Island was eventually upgraded to a tropical storm then promptly downgraded back to a tropical wave. Yes, it rained. Yes, it was windy. But if we're being honest, Chantal had very little impact on most locals; hence, its new name (which will be forgotten in about a month), The One That Postponed the Jacksonville Suns Game With the John Rocker Book Signing and Leprechaun Wrestling. Or as Sasha refers to it The One When I Got to Wear My New Raincoat to Go Pee-pee.
*CLARIFICATION/CORRECTION: The National Weather Bureau did not officially start using women's names to identify storms until 1953; however, military meteorologists did so during World War II.
In the original post, it was stated that the NSB began using men's names in the 1960s. While the movement to include men's names started in the '60s, the actual practice didn't go into effect until 1979. The sentence should have read: "At the urging of feminist groups in the 1960s, men's names were added to the mix in 1979."