On Wednesday, the World Meteorological Organization voted to retire the names Florence and Michael from its rotating lists of names for tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean.
Florence and Michael will be replaced with Francine and Milton in the 2024 list, which was the next time they would have appeared. Since the practice of naming tropical cyclones in the Atlantic began 66 years ago, these are the 88th and 89th names to be retired.
Storm names are considered for retirement if they have a tremendous impact on life and property, and Florence and Michael certainly did that.
In September and October, both storms ravaged the United States.
Florence formed right off the coast of Africa and made its only landfall two weeks later in North Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane. But a stall in the forward motion allowed the storm to linger for two days near the coast and dump record-smashing amounts of rain. It set tropical cyclone rainfall records in North Carolina (35.93 inches) and South Carolina (23.63 inches). Florence was responsible for 57 fatalities and at least $24 billion in damage.
Michael formed in the western Caribbean and then tracked northward, rapidly strengthening to a high-end Category 4 hurricane (possibly Category 5 — the postseason analysis is not complete) as it made landfall in Florida three days later.
Its peak sustained winds were 155 mph, and the central pressure was 919 millibars at landfall, making it the fourth most intense landfall in the contiguous United States as measured by wind, the third most intense as measured by pressure and by far the most intense ever to strike the Florida Panhandle. The storm decimated Mexico Beach, Fla., with a 15-foot storm surge and was responsible for 72 fatalities and $25 billion in damage.
Lists of storm names are recycled every six years, so the 2019 list of names is the same as that used in 2013, 2007, etc., and will be used again in 2025 and 2031. But there can be minor changes. According to the WMO, “the only time that there is a change in the list is 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.”
On average, roughly 12 percent of all named storms in the Atlantic end up getting retired.
Here is a look at how those retired names look when broken down by their name (first letter), the month, peak intensity and year. The coloring of the bars is just by value.