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No more Hurricane Katrinas

Five storm names retired from 2005 season; Katrina now Katia

By Eliott C. McLaughlin
New Orleans residents are still recovering from the devastation wrought by Katrina in August.


The names assigned for the 2006 hurricane season are:
•Kirk (replaces Keith, which devastated Mexico and Belize in 2000)



National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration
World Meteorological Organization

(CNN) -- After a 2005 hurricane season that ravaged the Caribbean and the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, five storm names were retired in April -- but don't expect to see their jerseys in the rafters they left strewn across Cuba, Mexico, Texas, Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana.

It is a far more dubious distinction.

"Unfortunately, you need a storm to hit and cause a considerable amount of destruction for it to be retired," said Chris Vaccaro, a spokesman with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The names Dennis, Katrina, Rita, Stan and Wilma will never grace a hurricane again, according to a committee of the World Meteorological Organization, which retires storm names out of sensitivity to the victims, and for historical, scientific and legal purposes as well.

Hurricane names are recycled every six years. Replacing Katrina and the other retirees in 2011 will be Don, Katia, Rina, Sean and Whitney, according to an NOAA news release.

When a storm causes widespread destruction or loss of life, its name is retired, not only to avoid reminding the victims of the horrors they experienced but also to keep the record straight.

It's not likely that a weak storm that swirls harmlessly in the Atlantic before fizzling will be referenced in the future, but once a large storm ravages a coast, its name becomes infamous, Vaccaro said.

"There will be only one Hurricane Andrew," he said, referring to the Category 5 storm that slammed into south Florida in 1992, causing $26.5 billion in damage and killing 26 people in the United States and Bahamas.

The retirement of five storm names speaks to the severity of the 2005 hurricane season, which saw an unprecedented 27 named storms and 15 hurricanes. Never have five storm names been retired in one season, Vaccaro said.

Since 1953, when tropical cyclones were first assigned monikers, 67 storm names have been retired. Thirteen percent of those have come in the last two seasons.

Four storm names were retired in 1955, 1995 and 2004, Vaccaro said, noting that Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne earned the distinction last year.

The 2005 season fell one shy of witnessing the most major hurricanes, classified as having winds of more than 111 mph, Vaccaro said. That was behind the 1950 season, which had eight major hurricanes, according to the NOAA.

But the storm doesn't necessarily have to be a major one to have its name retired, Vaccaro said. Tropical Storm Allison, which never reached hurricane status, had its name retired after it dumped more than 3 feet of rain on the port of Houston, Texas, over five days in 2001.

Here's a look at this year's retirees:

•Hurricane Dennis crossed Cuba in early July with winds of about 140 mph. It made landfall on Santa Rosa Island, Florida, on July 10 with winds estimated at 120 mph. At least 54 deaths have been attributed to Dennis, including 15 in the United States.

•Katrina is considered one of the deadliest and costliest hurricanes in U.S. history, with damages exceeding $50 billion and about 1,300 deaths (In 1900, a hurricane in Galveston, Texas, killed 8,000, and in 1928, a hurricane hit Lake Okeechobee in Florida and killed 1,836, according to the NOAA). Katrina first struck near Miami, Florida, on August 24 before making landfall in Buras, Louisiana, five days later with top winds of 125 mph.

•Rita struck southwestern Louisiana near the Texas border with winds of 115 mph on September 24. It had weakened significantly since being measured as a Category 5, with 180 mph winds, as it made its way between Cuba and the Florida Keys to the Louisiana coast. Nonetheless, its storm surge -- joined by heavy wind, rain and tornadoes -- left a swath of destruction from east Texas to Alabama.

•Stan dumped torrential rains on Central America and Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, killing as many as 2,000 people. Stan was a tropical storm when it hit the peninsula, but had escalated into a Category 1 by the time it made landfall October 4 about 90 miles southeast of Veracruz, Mexico.

•Wilma turned into a Category 5 storm, with 185 mph winds, over the Caribbean Sea, registering the lowest-ever recorded central pressure of any storm in the Atlantic. Though it dwindled to a Category 4, it still devastated the Yucatan Peninsula and later raced ashore October 24 in Cape Romano, Florida, with winds estimated at 120 mph.

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