No Retirement for “Imelda”

Tropical Storm Imelda dropped almost 44" of rain
Tropical Storm Imelda dropped almost 44" of rain

HOUSTON – I was convinced that Tropical Storm Imelda’s wrath over Texas in 2019 was certainly enough to have that name retired. The most retired names, in fact, are the ones beginning with the letter “I”. Why would this storm--even though never a hurricane with only 45 mph winds -- NOT make the list of retirees given the almost 44″ of rain, $5 billion in damage and six fatalities? I was so sure that I even blogged about the very idea right here in 2019.

But the World Meteorological Organization chose not to retire that name and I asked the NHC’s Dennis Feltgen, Communications & Public Affairs Officer, exactly why not?

To my knowledge, Imelda was not placed into consideration by the entire WMO hurricane committee for retirement. The same is true for Isaias, Sally and Delta.

Hurricane Isaias last year was, in fact, a storm that left $5 billion in damage and 18 fatalities and absolutely clobbered North Carolina:

Stronger than expected, Isaias slammed North Carolina

You might recall Sally, which at first was making a bee-line to New Orleans before slowing down and cutting a right hook into coastal Alabama, although the heaviest rain ended up over the Florida Panhandle. Sally produced $7.3 billion in damage and took eight lives.

Hurricane Sally struck Alabama but brought its wrath to the Florida Panhandle

And then Delta moved into Louisiana late in the season, setting a record as the fourth storm to hit that state last year, killing six and leaving $3 billion in damage.

Sadly, I think the lesson here is that SO MANY HURRICANES are producing deadlier and costlier results that the bar has been raised as to whether they are even considered “bad enough” to have their name retired. Let that sink in.

One More Note on the Greek Names

You may have heard that the Greek alphabet has been retired as the go-to list when we run out of names for the season. The reason is pretty straight forward -- what if you have to retire a Greek name? Plus, they rhyme (Eta, Theta, Zeta) which causes confusion. Just a whole messaging nightmare!

I asked Dennis what happens if we go to the alternate list and only get to, say, the name starting with C: would we pick up the next time we need the alternate list with D, or get a whole new list every year?

If we have to use the alternate name list, it starts with the letter A. When it’s used again, it would not pick up where it left off. It would again start with the letter A.

Get ready for alternate lists -- my prediction is for another busy hurricane season. Forecasts will begin coming out soon, which we’ll discuss in this space.

In the meantime, an amazing weekend is in store, so enjoy and welcome to spring! Officially, that is, at 4:27 a.m. tomorrow!

Frank

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About the Authors:

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, social media news and local crime.

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with three decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.