CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - As we all know, tropical storms and hurricanes are given names each year (by the World Meteorological Organization) to help us clearly identify each storm and reduce confusion especially when there is more than one active storm in progress.
When these storms cause catastrophic damage along their journey and life cycle, their names are retired to help memorialize those storms and the historical legacy they left. Last year, two storms fell into this terrible category: Erika and Joaquin.
Typically the storms that cause such destruction are major hurricanes which fall into the Category 3, Category 4 or Category 5 thresholds. Winds in these storms can range from 111mph all the way to nearly 200mph. And storm surges along the coasts can send deep and destructive ocean water inland causing severe flooding for coastal residents.
But in an interesting twist, you might be surprised to find out that Erika never reached hurricane strength. So how on earth was that storm retired?
Well there is one more thing I failed to mention... rainfall. Sadly, some areas on the island of Dominica in the Caribbean received more than 15" of rainfall with the passage of this storm. Massive mudslides resulted in nearly 900 homes destroyed and almost 15,000 people left homeless. There were 30 deaths with $500 million in damage, and some said the storm set the island back 20 years.
Joaquin was more typical in that it did reach Category 4 status and devastated a number of islands in the central and southeastern Bahamas. The storm took 34 lives, but in this case all lives were lost at sea, 33 of which were on the cargo ship El Faro. While Joaquin was the strongest October hurricane to hit the Bahamas since 1866, Americans will probably best remember this storm for the moisture it helped feed into the southeastern US resulting in the devastating floods across the South Carolina low country.
Hurricane names are reused every six years unless retired as is now the case with Erika and Joaquin from the 2015 Hurricane Season.