Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What's In A Name?

We have seen the baby name books while waiting at the checkout line of our favorite grocery store, and are shocked to see that it is over a hundred pages. I can only imagine the struggle and parents’ indecisiveness of choosing a name that will embody this new life. I began to wonder if the process to name a hurricane is this intricate.

Growing up, I loved watching the weather report during hurricane season, I still do. I finally asked myself, why. Why would a girl from the Midwest, who has never been at risk of experiencing a hurricane, be so captivated by them? The odds are greater for me to be stranded by a blizzard, lose my home to a fire, tornado, or earthquake, than be in a hurricane. Nevertheless, hurricanes are the ones that capture my attention and keep me glued to my T.V. monitoring their most recent activity. Knowing their name brought them to life.

Who started to name them?

For hundreds of years, people from the West Indies named hurricanes after saints. They had a very simple approach to naming these untamable storms, a hurricane struck land, a calendar was pulled and consulted to find the day's saint and presto they had a hurricane name. Things started to get murky in the 1900’s, when people started to create a standard naming system for hurricanes. The first idea was to name them after their longitude-latitude position, but that failed for it made communication difficult. Throughout the years many have tried to devise their own naming systems but they all proved to have their drawbacks, until the World Meteorological Organization took control of the naming process.

The World Meteorological Organization, which is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, meets and draws up a list of names A-Z, excluding Q, U, X, Y, and Z, names starting with these letters are scarce. The WMO realized that hurricanes strike and are followed by many countries, so they expanded the list to contain names from the English, French, Spanish, and Dutch language. Like peoples’ names, hurricanes names are reused and recycled, unless one creates mass devastation, then the name is retired.

Curious to know if you share the name of an up-coming hurricane? I was. 2015 will be the year of Erika. It is not the exact spelling of my name, but I will take it. I am looking forward to see the changing personality of the hurricane that shares my name. Whether it will be temperamental or mellow, I hope that it is not destructive.

The Chicago land area may not be struck by a hurricane, but the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago dispatches volunteers to help those affected by hurricanes. When Hurricane Katrina unleashed her fury on Louisiana the Red Cross mobilized volunteers throughout the nation and provided disaster relief. Over 7,000 people affected by Hurricane Katrina sought refuge in Chicago and the Chicago Red Cross provided them with mental health services, food, and shelter. Hurricanes may not affect us directly, but their aftermath impacts us.

During this hurricane season listen to the weather reports and tract their dynamic personalities.

If you are planning to vacation to a location that is prone to hurricanes visit: Be Prepared.

No comments: