Hurricane Sandy, the Category 3 storm that devastated so much of the Eastern Seaboard in October, will be the last of its kind — at least in name. The Switzerland-based World Meteorological Organization, an agency of the United Nations, announced on Thursday morning that it has retired the name "Sandy" from its list of names for tropical cyclones originating in the Atlantic Ocean, and replaced it with "Sara." The retirement came five months after the storm, after WMO officials decided that re-using the name was, well, "inappropriate." The agency's website explains that a name is retired from a set of six rotating lists "if a storm is so deadly or costly that the future use of its name on a different storm would be inappropriate for reasons of sensitivity. If that occurs, then at an annual meeting by the WMO committee (called primarily to discuss many other issues) the offending name is stricken from the list and another name is selected to replace it." Sandy was set to return to the rotation for the 2018 storm season.
Sandy's retirement is a good reminder why weather officials designate storms with human names at all. "Experience shows that the use of short, distinctive names in written as well as spoken communications is quicker and less subject to error than the older, more cumbersome latitude-longitude identification methods," the WMO explains on the same page it lists previously retired names. "The use of easily remembered names greatly reduces confusion when two or more tropical storms occur at the same time. ... In the past, confusion and false rumors have arisen when storm advisories broadcast from radio stations were mistaken for warnings concerning an entirely different storm located hundreds of miles away." The Weather Channel, meanwhile, has taken to naming storms however it pleases.
Sandy is the 77th storm name retired by the WMO since 1954, when the agency retired "Carol" and "Hazel," after Hurricane Carol struck New England (prompting Rhode Island's governor to declare martial law) and Hurricane Hazel ravaged parts of Haiti, the coast of the Southeastern United States, and Toronto.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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