Troubling the Waters
Hurricane Beta, currently swirling westward through the Caribbean, has created more than the natural "stir" of foamy seas. Meteorologists are abuzz with excitement; it's the first time they've run through the entire alphabet in naming annual storms and have had to start over again.
What's more remarkable to me is that here in the Carolinas—a rather prominent part of the nation's "hurricane coast"—we've managed to escape all of them this year. We've had our share of slammers and drenchers in recent years, but for now we seem to be out of the cycle of storm tracks.
Major storm stats: Katrina this year became the priciest hurricane to affect the United States (they're still tallying the costs along the Gulf Coast) and undoubtedly provoked the windiest, most prolonged media attention. But the 1900 Galveston 'cane remains by far the deadliest in U.S. history; it killed some 8,000 unprepared lowlanders (and that was in a day when coastal populations were a fraction what they are now). By comparison, Hurricane Mitch in 1998 left 18,000 dead or missing in Central America—most of them flooding and mudslide victims. The most devastating storm worldwide was a 1970 cyclone whose monstrous surge rolled into what is now Bangladesh; approximately 300,000 died.
Hurricanes and tropical storms have been officially named only since 1950. Storm names today are selected by the World Meteorological Organization.