A Bizarre Fact About Hurricane Names

It's not logical, but hurricanes with female names appear to be far deadlier than similar tropical storms with male names.

Why? People don't prepare as well for hurricanes that are perceived as feminine.

That's the word from researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who studied death rates from hurricanes that reached land in the United States over the past 60 years. Even though they purposely left out two particularly deadly and destructive hurricanes so the data would not be skewed--Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Audrey in 1957--the findings showed that the death tolls for hurricanes with female names were almost three times higher than those with male names, reports HealthDay News.

While it could just be a coincidence, the researchers wonder if people may not take storms with female names as seriously. "If people in the path of a severe storm are judging the risk based on the storm's name, then this is potentially very dangerous," said lead study author Kiju Jung.

How are hurricane names chosen? For Atlantic storms, the National Hurricane Center creates six lists of names, alternating male and female, that are maintained and updated by the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, reports LiveScience.com. The lists are kept in rotation. If a storm name is not used or assigned to what turns out to be a minor storm, it is used again. The names of major storms are never used again. That means there will only be one Hurricane Katrina.

"In judging the intensity of a storm, people appear to be applying their beliefs about how men and women behave," said study co-author Sharon Shavitt. "This makes a female-named hurricane, especially one with a very feminine name such as Belle or Cindy, seem gentler and less violent."

Hurricanes were first given male names in 1979. Prior to then, all hurricanes had female names.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30.

The study findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

--From the Editors at Netscape

News, Photo and Web Search