Katrina, Maria, Harvey and Sandy are all infamous names belonging to some of the worst hurricanes in history. But where do these names come from?


With only one left, the National Hurricane Center may soon use the last names on the official list of Atlantic storm names in 2020.

Only Wilfred is left on the list of 21 storm names pre-approved by the season by the World Meteorological Organization.

The name may be assigned over the next week. In addition to the four named systems now being monitored – Paulette, Teddy, Vicky and Sally – which are expected to cause massive flooding in parts of the Southeast, the center is monitoring three potential systems. These systems include one in the East Atlantic with a 70% chance of becoming a tropical cyclone over the next five days.

When the Hurricane Center assigns it the last name on the list, it moves into the Greek alphabet. It has only happened once before. The hyperactive 2005 season unfolds using six Greek names: Tropical Storm Alpha, Hurricane Beta, Tropical Storm Gamma, Tropical Storm Delta, Hurricane Epsilon and Tropical Storm Zeta.

If Wilfred is formed, it is probably the earliest “W” storm recorded. Like many of the storms this season, Vicky set a record and became the earliest 20th Atlantic storm to break a record set by Tammy on Oct. 5, 2005, said Phil Klotzbach, a Colorado State University meteorologist who leads a seasonal hurricane forecasting team.

The naming convention for Atlantic storms began in 1953. An international committee of the meteorological organization approves six lists of names that are rotated each year. The list used this year will be used again in 2026 with the exception of all names that the group decides to retire. For example, the name Laura is likely to retire due to Hurricane Laura’s impacts in the United States and the Caribbean, including more than 50 deaths.

For those who did not have to remember the alphabet while a member of a Greek community in college, here is the list of 24 names next up in the center’s rotation after Wilfred:

  • Alpha
  • Beta
  • Gamma
  • Delta
  • Epsilon
  • Zeta
  • And
  • Theta
  • Iota
  • Kappa
  • Lambda
  • Mu
  • Does not
  • Xi
  • Omicron
  • Pi
  • Rho
  • Sigma
  • Your
  • Upsilon
  • Phi
  • Chi
  • Psi
  • Omega

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