You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, but you need one to know the name of the wind.
It will be hurricane season soon enough, though maybe not soon enough for the pollen sufferers who need to shovel paths just to get to the car in the morning. It will take every drop of a drenching rain to wash our daffodil-hued world clean again.
We got off relatively unscathed by tropical storms last year, and that’s a good thing. Only a classical linguistics professor would have been capable of understanding one storm from the next.
Last year, for just the second — and last — time, the National Weather Service reached into its cookie jar of storm names and came up dry after running through its batch of 21 monikers.
Why 21 when there are 26 letters in the alphabet? Hurricane namers steer away from the letters Q, U, X, Y and Z, because they’re not common enough or easily understood across English, Spanish, French and Portuguese, the languages frequently spoken in hurricane territory.
Perhaps we should have seen this coming when Arthur and Bertha broke early in May of last year. But since everyone was focused on coronavirus and not the convection of cumulus and cumulonimbus clouds, we missed the warning.
By the time Tropical Storm Vicky petered out in mid-September, hurricane specialists realized they were out of names but not storm season. And so, with two and a half months left, the NWS went to plan B and scavenged the Greek alphabet. That hadn’t happened since the last overactive hurricane season in 2005.
Now, having been a halfway decent frat boy in my college days — and three years of Latin in high school — this was not altogether unfamiliar territory. I knew that Zeta Eta Theta was not a sorority girl’s poor late-night diner menu choice. But the average Joe? Whose Greek knowledge began and ended with “gyro”?
“People were mixing the storms up,” Kenneth Graham, director of the National Hurricane Center, told The New York Times.
Fortunately, the 2020 season was not bad enough to break into the cyrillic alphabet and its equally confusing — and largely unpronounceable — 32 letters.
This year, predicted to be an “above average” year, common sense has prevailed. Rather than develop some other convoluted naming convention, the World Meteorological Organization simply came up with a secondary list of 21 names — a bullpen, so to speak — to use if the first set gets depleted. So if we get to Wanda with time still left on the hurricane clock, we’ll be making the call to the bullpen for Adria, Braylen and Caridad, etc.
It strikes me that spring is the only season that doesn’t really have a naming opportunity, especially now that they’re naming winter storms. The Pollen Bomb season seems ripe for its own roster of role-players.
Why not Amarillo, Butter, Canary, Daffodil, Forsythia, Grapefruit — you get the point.
“Uh oh. Could be a two-handkerchief today for Pollen Bomb Omelet.” “I hope it won’t be as hazy as Pollen Bomb Rubber Duck.”
Not that we’ll need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. Just follow the yellow cloud, whatever name it goes by. And the way we’re going this season, we might need a supplemental list, too.
Contact editor John Nagy at (910) 693-2507 or email@example.com.