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We're now in peak hurricane season, and are already up to "H" names - that would be for tropical storm Howard, in the eastern Pacific, now dissipated - with a female "I" name next in line.

The naming system's been around since 1953, although it wasn't until 1979 that the National Hurricane Center began alternating male and female names. The letters "Q", "U", "X", "Y" and "Z", with a scarcity of names beginning with those letters, are omitted from the roster, leaving 21 names to choose from. There are six rotating lists of names for hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, so this year's names haven't been used since 2016; but some names attached to particularly devastating storms are retired, so we are not likely to have another Katrina or Andrew or Sandy anytime soon.

Who comes up with these names? That's the job of the Hurricane Committee of the World Meteorological Association, which is part of the United Nations. Member nations can suggest names or ask that names be retired; and during the very busy hurricane seasons of 2005 and 2020, authorized the use of letters from the Greek alphabet when the 21-name list was exhausted. 2020, you might recall, was the year of Hurricane Iota (which did not make landfall on the southeast coast, but battered much of Central America).

Some other storm-prone parts of the world have their own lists of names that would sound familiar in their own neighborhoods. In the central North Pacific, for example, names like Aka, Neki and Unala appear, while Micronesia has Mitag on the list, and the Philippines, Ragasa. And what about the word "hurricane" itself? It comes from the folklore of native Taino peoples in the Caribbean, and the names of two rival sons born to a goddess. One of the sons was so jealous of the other, who had created the sun, moon, plants and animals, that he tried to destroy them with powerful winds. His name was Jurakan.

We hope Jurakan's jealousy doesn't get out of hand this season, but while hoping for the best, be sure and prepare for the worst according to the NHC and local officials. For continually updated information about any pending storms, visit the National Hurricane Center on the web.

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