Can we retire a Greek hurricane name? Delta made us wonder.

2020 a record-breaking year for hurricane activity

Hurricane. (WikiImages from Pixabay)

Louisiana residents who are still recovering from the devastation of a powerful hurricane less than two months ago braced for another hit as Hurricane Delta steamed north through the Gulf on Thursday after swiping Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, the Associated Press reported.

It took a short amount of time for the storm to grow, relatively speaking.

“It strengthened from a tropical depression to a Category 4 storm in just over a day,” Meteorologist Paul Gross said. “It intensified at twice the minimum rate needed to qualify as ‘rapid intensification.’”

Early Wednesday, the storm made landfall as a Category 2 storm between the towns of Cancun and Playa del Carmen, packing sustained winds of 110 mph.

Delta left fallen trees and electrical poles, as well as damage to building facades, and as it treks toward the U.S. now, meteorologists expect it to strengthen again before striking the Gulf Coast, so we can’t help but wonder: Can we retire a Greek hurricane name?

“They do not retire Greek alphabet storm names -- at least so far,” Gross said.

The National Hurricane Center will retire a name when there’s a storm so costly or deadly that using the same name in the future would be inappropriate.

“They do this so that people never have to go through another Andrew, or Katrina, or Camille, or Maria, etc., ever again,” Gross said. “Just hearing those names associated with an approaching storm would cause some people to panic.”

However, up to this point, there’s never been reason to consider retiring a Greek letter.

The last time we went through all the letters of the alphabet and moved on to the Greek alphabet was 2005. There is only one documented time before that in which we had to do so.

In 2005, a record-breaking year of devastating hurricanes, we made it through six Greek letters. That year, Katrina, Rita and Wilma were all retired.

After moving through the Yucatan Peninsula on Wednesday, and now headed straight for the U.S., the storm is expected to grow, and likely put people and places in danger.

If it does end up being a deadly and costly storm, why wouldn’t it warrant retiring Delta?

The Hurricane Committee addressed the issue in 2006, when the group decided that the use of the Greek alphabet was not expected to be used frequently enough to strike any of the letters from the list, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

The Committee also agreed that it was not practical to retire into hurricane history a letter in the Greek alphabet.

It might be important to note here, for anyone unfamiliar with the Greek alphabet, that the first letters are not individual letters, like our alphabet. Instead, the letters are Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and so on. Therefore, the “name” is also just the letter.

On the WMO site, officials state, “If a significant storm designated by a letter of the Greek Alphabet" -- for example, Delta -- "in either the Atlantic or eastern North Pacific Basin, was considered worthy of being ‘retired,’ it would be included in the list of retired names with the year of occurrence and other details, but that particular letter in the Greek Alphabet would continue to be available for use in the future.”

So, despite the damage Delta may leave behind, it will still remain an option for use in the future -- for now, anyway.

About the Author:

Dawn Jorgenson, Graham Media Group Branded Content Managing Editor, began working with the group in April 2013. She graduated from Texas State University with a degree in electronic media.