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Bonnie? The Name's The Same

Forecasters in 1998 keep an eye on Hurricane Bonnie

In 1998, forecasters keep an eye on Hurricane Bonnie. Robert Sullivan/AFP hide caption

itoggle caption Robert Sullivan/AFP

Does the name Bonnie ring a bell?

That's because there are only so many names to go around, in fact, just six lists are used in rotation - one list per year. So, Bonnie has popped up again after a 6-year hiatus. This time around (at least so far), she's reprising her tropical storm role from 2004. Twelve years ago, however, Bonnie put on a performance as a category 3 hurricane, causing nearly a million people to be evacuated in the Carolinas and ultimately cost $1 billion in damages. After taking a glancing blow off North Carolina in late August, she headed toward the hurricane graveyard of the North Atlantic.

U.S. meteorologists once used latitude and longitude designations to label hurricanes and tropical storms. But that practice proved cumbersome and in World War II, the U.S. Navy began using female name as designators. After the war, that caught on. In 1979, in a nod to gender equality, government forecasters started using both male and female names.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):

Experience shows that the use of short, distinctive given names in written as well as spoken communications is quicker and less subject to error than the older more cumbersome latitude-longitude identification methods. These advantages are especially important in exchanging detailed storm information between hundreds of widely scattered stations, airports, coastal bases, and ships at sea.

So, will there ever be another Hurricane Katrina? Nope. Nor will there be any more Andrews, Wilmas or Floyds. That's because when a hurricane does a lot of damage, the name gets retired, sort of like a particularly devastating defensive lineman.

Here's a full list of Atlantic hurricane names you'll never see again.

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