Hurricane names Harvey, Irma and Maria officially 'retired'

Homes are surrounded by floodwater Sept. 1 2017 in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey near Galveston Texas

Homes are surrounded by floodwater Sept. 1 2017 in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey near Galveston Texas

Due to extensive damage caused by the hurricanes, the World Meteorological Organization has officially retired all four storm names.

Four names from the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season - Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate - will never be used again.

Hurricane Irma's Category 5 winds of almost 180 miles per hour leveled buildings and vegetation in the Leeward Islands in early September, then ended with a destructive combination of waves, storm surge, rain and tornadoes across Florida.

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Experience shows that the use of short, distinctive given names in written as well as spoken communications is quicker and less subject to error than the older more cumbersome latitude-longitude identification methods. The organisation will replace Harvey with Harold, Irma with Idalia, and Maria with Margot.

According to Sean Breslin, editor of Weather.com, Harvey was used as a storm name six times, starting in 1981.

Seventeen tropical storms formed in 2017, with 10 becoming hurricanes, six of which reached major hurricane strength (Harvey, Irma, Jose, Lee, Maria, Ophelia). The meeting is chaired by Kenneth Graham, the new director of NOAA's National Hurricane Center.

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Hurricane Harvey killed at least 68 people after hitting Texas last August. Irma caused 44 deaths and 85 indirect deaths in the Caribbean and Florida.

The 2005 season set the record with five hurricane names retired: Dennis, Katrina, Rita, Stan and Wilma. It wasn't just the most active - it was also the most expensive on record in USA history. Within a given hurricane season, male and female names alternate; the following year, the gender ordering is staggered (for example, Ana and Bill one year, Alex and Bonnie the next, etc.). The 60.58-inch (or 5-foot) rainfall total in Nederland, Texas broke the record for heaviest hurricane rainfall measurement in US history by 8 inches. Maria killed 31 in Dominica and 65 in Puerto Rico.

Nate proceeded north to hit the central U.S. Gulf Coast as a Category 1 hurricane and brought minor rainfall to Virginia. Nate, meanwhile, was responsible for 45 deaths after crossing Central America.

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