(NEXSTAR) — Hurricane Ian is poised to wreak havoc on Florida’s western coastline, bringing with it 155-mph winds, 12 or more feet of storm surge, and at least a foot of rain. If the damage is as “widespread, life-threatening, catastrophic” as the National Hurricane Center is predicting, the name “Ian” could be retired from use forever.
Normally, the list of potential tropical storm and hurricane names is on a six-year rotation. However, the World Meteorological Organization retires a name when a storm is especially catastrophic or deadly, making the reuse of its name insensitive or inappropriate.
If retired, Ian would join a long list of “I” names put to rest. In fact, there are more “I” names retired than any other letter. There was Hurricane Ida last year, Irma in 2017 and Ivan in 2004, just to name a few.
Why are hurricanes that start with I more destructive? It all comes down to timing.
Tropical storms and hurricanes are named in alphabetical order, and I is the ninth letter of the alphabet. Often, the ninth storm of the year hits around peak hurricane season, reports the Washington Post, from mid-August to late September. Ocean temperatures and wind conditions during this period tend to contribute to especially strong storms that end up causing the most damage.
The full list of 13 “I” names retired is below (in alphabetical order):
- Ida – 2021
- Igor – 2010
- Ike – 2008
- Inez – 1966
- Ingrid – 2013
- Ione – 1955
- Iota – 2020
- Irene – 2011
- Iris – 2001
- Irma – 2017
- Isabel – 2003
- Isidore – 2002
- Ivan – 2004
(You can see all the retired hurricane names from the National Hurricane Center here.)
While meteorologists have all eyes on Ian right now, they’ve already planned ahead for the next potential storm. The list of names goes in alphabetical order alternating between male and female names, meaning the next named storm would be Julia, followed by Karl and Lisa, and so forth until Walter.
There aren’t any names chosen beginning with Q, U, X, Y and Z because those letters aren’t common enough to be easily understood in the local languages spoken in North America, Central America and the Caribbean (areas all affected by hurricanes).
Hurricanes are given “short, distinctive names” to avoid confusion and to make it easier to communicate safety information to people, according to the National Hurricane Center.