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What's in a name? A look at the 'A' names of the 2021 hurricane season

The 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season started with Ana on May 22. We look back at the most powerful A-named storms and some other interesting A-name facts.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

A Brief History:

Every hurricane season will start with an 'A' named storm, that alternates between a male and a female name, but it wasn't always like that. Names were first used for hurricanes starting in 1950 where the first 'A' name was Able. This name list was based on the British World War II spelling alphabet (Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog, Easy, etc...)

By 1953, the National Hurricane Center switched to a list of female-only names. The first being Tropical Storm Alice on May 25, 1953. It wasn't until 1979, that the alternating male and female list was implemented. 

The Strongest 'A' Names:

Since the naming system first began, seven storms beginning with the letter A have been retired. The first being Audrey in 1957. It has now been 20 years since the last 'A' named storm was retired. That was Allison in 2001. 

Of those seven, three were Category 5's: Andrew (1992), Allen (1980), and Anita (1977). All of these storms were firstborn in August, closer to the peak. That is one thing that has changed over the last couple of decades; the 'A' named storms are happening earlier and earlier.

The Recent Early Streak:

For seven straight years now, the first named storm of the Atlantic Hurricane Season has been born before the official beginning of the season that happens on June 1st.

  • 2015: Ana - May 6
  • 2016: Alex - January 16 (one of the earliest storms to ever form)
  • 2017: Arlene - April 16
  • 2018: Alberto - May 25
  • 2019: Andrea - May 20
  • 2020: Arthur - May 16
  • 2021: Ana - May 22

Alex was the only one of those seven that turned into a hurricane. You may also notice Ana is back again. That is because there are six lists of names that cycle every year. So every six years, you will see that list return with updated names to replace any that were retired.

A look back at previous Ana's:

The list that 2021 is using is actually the original first male and female list that was implemented in 1979. Ana was on that list. This is the 8th time we have had a named storm named Ana and also means that this is the 8th time we are using this list of names (of course multiple names have been replaced due to retirements). 

Ana has started off the hurricane season in 1979, 1985, 1991, 1997, 2003, 2009, 2015, and now 2021. All eight times she has been a Tropical Storm. Do note: There was a Hurricane Ana in 2014, but that was in the Pacific Ocean, which has a different naming list. The earliest Ana has formed is April 27, 2003, and the latest Ana has formed is August 10, 2009.

The way that this pattern is trending, Ana could be on this list for a long time, because storms that form before hurricane season are not usually strong enough to be retired. 

2021's Ana is no threat to land, so she will live on again in the year 2027.

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