PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – The intense 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season brought the largest number of named storms ever on record at 30. It marked only the second time (the other being 2005) that the standard list of names for the season was exhausted, pushing the late-season storms into the Greek alphabet.
But 2020 will be the last time names such as Alpha, Beta, or Gamma will be used.
A new, supplementary list of standard names will take over, should we see another season have more than 21 named storms. Names starting with Q, U, X, Y, and Z are not used due to not being common enough, or not being easily understood in certain regions.
The move was made by the National Hurricane Committee after a virtual meeting this week, citing problems with the use of naming storms after the Greek alphabet. These include:
- Too much focus on the name, rather than the impacts
- Confusion with Greek names when translated to other languages
- Greek letters sounding too similar and occurring in succession (Zeta, Eta, Theta), causing confusion
In addition, the committee also agreed to retire four storm names from the 2019 and 2020 seasons (decisions to retire storms from 2019 had been deferred due to the COVID-19 crisis unfolding).
- Dorian (2019) - A category 5 storm that battered the Abaco and Grand Bahama Islands, causing catastrophic damage and left roughly 30,000 people homeless or jobless
- Laura (2020) - Struck near Cameron, Louisiana with a massive 17-foot storm surge. It was responsible for the direct deaths of 47 people in the US and Hispaniola.
- Eta and Iota (2020) - These two storms made landfall in very nearly the same location along the Nicaraguan coast as category 4 storms, and did so just two weeks apart. Combined, they took 272 lives with wind, surge, and extensive flooding.
Another decision was made by the committee, and that was to keep the start of the Atlantic Hurricane Season at June 1. Discussions were considered on moving the start date to May 15, due partially to the frequency of pre-season storms in recent years.
This would also match the start date of the Pacific Hurricane Season, but for now, it remains June 1 for the Atlantic.