Now I Know: Here Comes the Story of the Herricanes

I love this title and I hope you get the reference. -- Dan

Here Comes the Story of the Herricanes

Every year, starting in late summer and extending through the fall, the North Atlantic Ocean experiences hurricane season. The destruction of some of these storms is hard to fathom; the fallout from big ones, like Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and superstorm Sandy in 2012 are still discussed -- and felt -- today. But if it weren’t for a change in the weather forecasting industry in the 1970s, we wouldn’t be talking about Hurricane Andrew -- and maybe not Sandy -- today. Rather, we’d likely be discussing Hurricane Andrea and maybe superstorm Sandra.

Because before the 1979 Hurricane system, the official naming conventions required that the storms only be named after women.

The practice of naming hurricanes began in 1887, thanks to a British meteorologist named Clement Wragge. Wragge began doing so most likely out of appreciation for the storms; as Atlas Obscura notes, “describing storms over Australia, New Zealand, and the Arctic, Wragge originally plucked names from Greek and Roman mythology, then moved on to the names of Pacific Island women whose beauty caught his eye.” But his naming habit was inconsistent and, as a result, it didn’t catch on right away. While his coworkers appreciated that giving a storm a name made it easier to discuss -- storms move, and describing them by location, as was the practice, was imprecise -- they didn't see a need to name every storm. And for the next half-century or so, hurricanes and similar storms were given names here and there, but it was hardly common.

World War II changed that. As Atlas Obscura continues, “with Air Force and Navy meteorologists naming tropical cyclones after their wives and girlfriends back home." While their original motivation was, like Wragge's, most ornamental than practical, these weathermen (perhaps accidentally) established the value of having an unambiguous way to refer to the various weather-related threats to American ships and planes. So in 1953, the National Weather Service (then known as the United States Weather Bureau), decided to formalize this practice. The Service has given a name to every hurricane since -- but, for the first 25 years, only named the storm after women.

Many women were, understandably, not okay with this -- hurricanes are destructive storms that cause obscene amounts of damage to communities, and it's not fair for only one gender to be associated with such devastation. Organized efforts to change the rule began as early as 1969, according to the Washington Post, when "the National Organization for Women at its national conference passed a motion 'that a communication be sent to National Hurricane Center in Miami asking that hurricanes not be named exclusively female names.'" The effort, led by an activist named Roxcy Bolton, went unanswered, but Bolton persisted. Three years later, in 1972, she took her campaign back to the weather bureau and was again rebuffed -- not just by the bureaucrats, but by the meteorologists. It was, they argued, a matter of science -- as articulated by a New York Times headline on Bolton's efforts rang out, "Weather Men Insist Storms Are Feminine."  And in 1977, the Houston Post argued that psychology -- and safety -- demanded that the storms be named after women; in an editorial, the paper wondered "would a hurricane with a man’s name convey the same sense of imminent danger as, say, a Hurricane Carla? Chalk it up to the feminine mystique, but it’s doubtful that a National Hurricane Center bulletin that Tropical Storm Al had formed in the Gulf or Hurricane Jake was threatening the Texas Coast would make us run for cover quite as fast." 

That's silly, of course, and ultimately, reason won out. In 1979, the National Weather Service began naming every other hurricane after men, starting with Hurricane Bob that July. Over the next decade, a handful of articles still bemoaned the change -- but more recent research shows they probably shouldn't have. In 2014, Kiju Jung, then a doctoral candidate in marketing at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, conducted a study to see how those in harm's way reacted to different hurricanes. What he found, per Smithsonian magazine, was that people tended to underestimate storms that were given feminine names, not the other way around. For example, per Smithsonian, "when other volunteers [  . . ] were provided with a fictional storm and a weather map and asked whether they would choose to evacuate the area or stay behind, for instance, they were more likely to evacuate when Christopher was headed their way rather than Christina."

Now I Know is supported by readers like you. Please consider becoming a patron by supporting the project on Patreon. 

Click here to pledge your support. (If you do, in gratitude, you'll have an ad-free Now I Know experience going forward.)

Bonus fact: Some of Clement Wragge’s early storm names served a purpose beyond the practical -- it also allowed Wragge to have some fun at the expense of politicians he didn’t like. As Atlas Obscura notes in the above-lined article, “when public figures opposed his projects, Wragge tacked their names onto storms, allowing him to take pleasure in reporting certain politicians as “causing great distress,” or “wandering aimlessly about the Pacific.”

From the Archives: The T-Word You Couldn't Talk About: When the Weather Bureau banned the word "tornado" from forecasts (and why).
Like today's Now I Know? Share it with a friend -- just forward this email along.
And if someone forwarded this to you, consider signing up! Just click here.
Share Share
Tweet Tweet
Forward Forward
Archives · Privacy Policy

Copyright © 2023 Now I Know LLC, All rights reserved.
You opted in, at via a contest, giveaway, or the like -- or you wouldn't get this email.

Now I Know is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Some images above via Wikipedia.

Now I Know's mailing address is:
Now I Know LLC
P.O. Box 536
Mt. Kisco, NY 10549-9998

Add us to your address book

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your email address or unsubscribe from this list

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp

Key phrases

Older messages

Now I Know: When Make Up Boxed Out Makeup

Monday, March 27, 2023

A story about Dr. Joyce Brothers View this email in your browser · Missed one? Visit the Archives Hope you had a good weekend. This story talks about the quiz show scandals of the 1950s. The 1994 movie

It's the Now I Know Weekender!

Friday, March 24, 2023

That generic subject line means I didn't know what I was going to write about when I started writing this. View this email in your browser · Missed an issue? Click here! If you're new to Now I

Now I Know: The Slave Who Shipped Himself to Freedom

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Meet Henry "Box" Brown View this email in your browser · Missed one? Visit the Archives This is a rerun from 2012 -- the event happened today in 1849. -- Dan The Slave Who Shipped Himself to

Now I Know: A Cute Way to Prevent Traffic Deaths

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Meet Xiaolüren (and his family) View this email in your browser · Missed one? Visit the Archives The "From the Archives" story today is about one of my absolute favorite fun facts. -- Dan A

Now I Know: Why Movie Theaters Have Red Seats

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Well, most of them. View this email in your browser · Missed one? Visit the Archives I know not all theaters have red seats, but given the below, maybe they should! -- Dan Why Movie Theaters Have Red

From the Void to Validation

Friday, June 2, 2023

Solitary writing is out, social writing is in. This month, we're launching Writing Sprints — workout classes for your mind — to take you from zero to published in one day. Enrollment is open until

Creative leverage

Friday, June 2, 2023

Creativity is finite so spend it wisely ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

Closes 6/16 • Summer Reading Kickoff Book Promo! • Tweets • Email Newsletter • Facebook & Blog Posts

Friday, June 2, 2023

Authors: Get in front of readers looking for books to read during the summer! Enable Images to See This Reserve Your Spot in ContentMo's JUNE #SummerReading Promotion & Get Your Book Tweeted

Now I Know: The Decade-Old Dialect Quiz You Should Take

Friday, June 2, 2023

It's the Now I Know Weekender! View this email in your browser · Missed an issue? Click here! If you're new to Now I Know, you'll notice that today's format is different than the rest

Dive into data this summer ☀️

Friday, June 2, 2023

Explore data-focused courses, blog posts, and more.͏ ‌ ͏ ‌ ͏ ‌ ͏ ‌ ͏ ‌ ͏ ‌ ͏ ‌ ͏ ‌ ͏ ‌ ͏ ‌ ͏ ‌ ͏ ‌ ͏ ‌ ͏ ‌ ͏ ‌ ͏ ‌ ͏ ‌ ͏ ‌ ͏ ‌ ͏ ‌ ͏ ‌ ͏ ‌ ͏ ‌ ͏ ‌ ͏ ‌ ͏ ‌ ͏ ‌ ͏ ‌ ͏ ‌ ͏ ‌ ͏ ‌ ͏ ‌ ͏ ‌ ͏ ‌ ͏ ‌ ͏ ‌ ͏ ‌ ͏

Risky Course

Friday, June 2, 2023

This is a risky course I'm making. Last week, I asked Better Sheets members if they'd want me to make a course on Add-ons. Specifically how to make an add-on for Google Sheets. I let it be

The Gold Standard Qualification

Friday, June 2, 2023

If you want a serious marketing qualification that opens career doors, without high fees and years of study, CXL Minidegrees are the gold standard. But you need to act quickly to join our elite squad.

Influence Weekly #287 - How Sephora Is Partnering With Creators for Brand Impact

Friday, June 2, 2023

TubeBuddy Launches Inaugural Emerging Creator Awards Influence Weekly #287 June 2nd, 2023 Executive Summary The Secrets Behind Alex Cooper's Influencer Success How Sephora Is Partnering With

🔥 Ignite Creativity: S.W.I.P.E.S. Email (Friday June 2nd, 2023)

Friday, June 2, 2023

The SWIPES Email Swipe📁 • Wisdom🧠 • Interesting🧐 • Picture🖼 • Essay📄 • Splurge💰 ​A fun email for Friday. I hope you enjoy! Edition: Friday, June 2nd, 2023​ ​ 🎤 Listen to this email here: ​ ​ Swipe: I

Is the new mentorship right for you?

Friday, June 2, 2023

​ ​ In just 3 days, the doors fling open to the new SEO Chatter Mentorship program. And it's going to be awesome for everyone involved! However, we still need to address one crucial question: