Who Gets to Name These Storms?

By Katiedid Langrock

September 16, 2017 5 min read

The day after Hurricane Irma pounded Florida, I heard a story about a woman who had gone into labor and been unable to get to the hospital. A 911 dispatcher had to talk her through birthing the baby at home. She named the child Irma.

It got me thinking, who are these incredibly lucky dukes and duchesses designated to name storms? Who are these masters of moniker who bear the gift of naming that which brings so much pain and destruction to our shores? Is there a lottery system to become a storm namer? Do you have to be a hurricane heir, with the honor passed down through your bloodline? Or can you earn it through receiving a doctorate in high winds nomenclature? Modifying monikers at 180 miles per hour?

No matter the level of birthright or education required to become one of these fortunate creatives behind the latest hurricane handle, I have just one true hope: Let them be as petty in real life as they are in my head. Because the way I see it, some old lady named Irma stole the last loaf of pumpernickel bread out of the shopping cart of a storm scientist with a doctorate in trending names, and there we have it, Hurricane Irma. That, my friends, is power. If you don't want your name to wind up being associated with mass flooding and flying roof tiles, maybe next time, you don't cut in front of someone at the grocery checkout aisle and steal his bread.

When I was in third grade, I learned the power of names. We were in computer class, and once again, my entire family had died on the Oregon Trail. The disappointment of losing was increased by the fact that in the beginning of each game, you had to name your family members, and I, like everyone else, would always name them after my best friends. Then one day, it hit me. If these Oregon Trail family members were always going to die from snakebites and diphtheria, why was I naming the characters after my friends? I wore a huge smile on my face as I typed in the names of my class bullies and arch-nemesis at the start of a new game. And I still smile as I remember the joy that day when I yelled across the computer room, "Amy! You just died of dysentery!" Petty? Yes. Immature? Absolutely. Deliciously fulfilling? One hundred percent.

I like to think that is exactly how it is for the folks naming our most horrific storms — that there is an element of revenge. I like to think that the scientist with the stolen pumpernickel came storming into his office of fellow storm-watchers, throwing both doors open at once and barking out, "Pull down the I names!" In my head, the new kid in the office, the recent graduate they are all still hazing and forcing to make coffee, ran over to the wall and pulled down the whiteboard from the ceiling that contained the I names. And the pumpernickel-less scientist regaled his colleagues with tales of the turmoil in the checkout line. "It gets worse," I imagine he told them. "We were in the self-checkout line, and she couldn't even figure out how to swipe the barcode, so I had to help her swipe the code on the pumpernickel bread that this Irma had stolen from me!" By a show of thumbs-up or thumbs-down, it was decided whether Irma belonged among the possible I names of hurricanes and tropical storms.

If you're one of these namers, everyone who has ever hurt you, gotten under your skin or made you angry has a chance of receiving the ultimate retribution: a storm name.

Then, before the new hurricane season begins, I like to think the team members engage in their own form of March Madness. They take down all the lists of names and pin them up against one another. The scientist wronged by Irma has to battle against the scientist who always felt a kinship to the six-fingered man and wanted revenge on Inigo Montoya. An intense tournament of storytelling follows, with each person stating all the ways in which he or she was wronged, until the group comes to a consensus on who deserves to be the name of destruction more.

Hurricane Irma was awful. The idea of petty scientists made cleanup a little easier.

Katiedid Langrock is author of the book "Stop Farting in the Pyramids," available at http://www.creators.com/books/stop-farting-in-the-pyramids. Like Katiedid Langrock on Facebook, at http://www.facebook.com/katiedidhumor. To find out more about her and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

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Katiedid Langrock
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