Tough luck, Yolande. Your name will never grace the front pages of the newspapers over pictures of bending palms and flying flotsam.
The annual list of hurricane names, released yesterday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in advance of the hurricane season's official opening today, has Cosme, Kiko, Tico and Luis, Opal, Roxanne and Wendy, but no Yolande, Xerxes, Ulysses or Zelda.
"It's just too difficult to find names beginning with X,Y and Z," said NOAA spokesman Marne A. Friess. The same goes for Q and U, so the official slates of hurricane names (one for the Atlantic, one for the Pacific) have 21 names each.
No matter. If history is any guide, the forecasters will have plenty of names left over when the season ends Nov. 30. According to officials at the National Hurricane Center in Coral Gables, Fla., a normal year produces 10 tropical storms, six of which develop the wind velocities of a hurricane, 75 mph or higher.
According to Friess, hurricanes were "arbitrarily named" until about 1900, when Australian weather forecaster Clement Wragge started naming them after politicians who had earned his disfavor.
Military meteorologists later took over the job, giving the storms the names of their wives and girlfriends, perhaps for similar reasons.
But in 1949, when the news media got into the act--dubbing two successive Atlantic hurricanes Harry and Bess--the government decided it was time to get a handle on the hurricane handles.
The first official government list, based on the phonetic alphabet (Able, Baker, Charley), came out in 1952--just in time for a change in the international phonetic alphabet.
"By the time they got to Charley, the new alphabet was using Cocoa," said Friess. In 1954, the job was turned over to the World Meteorological Organization.
In 1979, after 25 years of complaints, the organization started alternating female names with male ones. But even that has its pitfalls. This year the weather service has gotten gripes about the first name on the Pacific list--Adolph.
"There are complaints that it's too closely associated with Hitler," said Friess.