Each year, the World Meteorological Organization’s RA (Regional Association) IV Hurricane Committee convenes for a week to recap the last hurricane season and discuss plans for the upcoming one. During that conference, members decide which storm names never to use again.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Hurricane Center, a name gets retired if a storm was “so deadly or costly that the future use of its name on a different storm would be inappropriate for obvious reasons of sensitivity.” It’s also just less confusing that way. If an upcoming hurricane got christened “Katrina,” we’d no doubt have to start calling it “Katrina 2021” to differentiate it from 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. Speaking of 2005, that year holds the record for most retired storm names: five, including Dennis, Katrina, Rita, Stan, and Wilma.
It’s not just hurricanes that get named—all tropical cyclones do, which also encompasses tropical storms. Though not quite as powerful as hurricanes, tropical storms can still wreak massive devastation, and some of their names have been retired, too. Examples include Allison, a tropical storm that caused major flooding in Southeast Texas in 2001, and Erika, which pummeled the Caribbean in 2015.
Names are taken from a series of six rotating lists, so retiring one requires choosing a new name to fill its place. When the committee withdrew Florence and Michael after the 2018 hurricane season, for example, they added Francine and Milton to the list that will be used first in 2024.
Since the naming system was instituted in 1953, 93 names of Atlantic basin storms have been put out to pasture. The conspicuous absence of traditionally male names for the first couple decades isn’t a coincidence—only female names were used for storms until the late 1970s.
You can see all the retired names below.