Hurricane Harvey and Irma: will they be retired?

Posted on Sep-12-2017 at 16:44:00

Hurricane Harvey and Irma were major hurricanes causing numerous deaths and billions of dollars in damages. So the big question, will the names be retired?

Let's first start with the basics. Hurricanes in the Atlantic are named based on a six-year, recycled list created by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). For example, the list of names this year (2017) will not be used again until 2023.

The lists are alphabetical, however, excluded from the list are the letters Q, U, X, and Y. The list also alternates between male and female names.

When a named tropical system is particularly strong or results in significant damage, the WMO can decide to retire the name from the list. Last year, both Matthew and Otto were retired.

Looking at Hurricane Harvey, at least 70 deaths have been associated with the storm, and the cost will likely be well over 60 billion dollars. This cost will certainly put it on the list as one of the costliest tropical systems to impact the United States.

Sadly for Hurricane Irma, the death toll continues to rise. At the moment the loss of life is estimated to be over 50. The total cost is still being calculated, but as with Harvey, Irma has likely caused well over 60 billion dollars in damages.

Looking at the death toll, cost and overall impact from both of these storms, it is highly likely the WMO will indeed retire both names from the list.

An interesting fact: This year was the first time Irma had the chance to become a tropical system as she was added to the list of Atlantic Hurricane names in 2011 after Irene was retired. According to NOAA, Irene resulted in 48 deaths (40 in the U.S., five in the Dominican Republic and three in Haiti), created widespread flooding from the mid-Atlantic through New England and caused an estimated 15.8 billion dollars of damage in the United States.

Below are the six lists of Atlantic Hurricane Names: