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Hurricane Idalia, which is currently churning toward Florida, is projected to be a life-threatening Category 3 storm. If the storm wreaks enough havoc, the name Idalia could be retired from the hurricane name list – following a trend for hurricane names that start with I. 

Why are hurricane names retired?

Hurricane are named in alphabetical order and there are six hurricane name lists that rotate. This year’s list starts with Arlene and ends with Whitney, with storms being named in order of their appearance as tropical storms. The 2023 list will repeat in 2029. 

Most of the names on the six rotating lists are recycled – unless a name is retired, meaning it is removed from all future lists. 

The six name lists were formed in 1979 by the World Meteorological Organization, which also determines which names should be retired after a particularly devastating storm. 

To avoid being inappropriate or insensitive after a destructive storm, names are completely removed – like Katrina, in 2005. That year, four other storms – Dennis, Rita, Stan and Wilma – made such an impact, they were retired too.

The organization chose not to use some past names of bad storms when it made the six lists in 1976. Before that, “Fern” was replaced with “Frieda” in 1966 – without any reason.

Retired hurricane names starting with “I”

Most of the names on the retired list start with “I.” 

A whopping 14 out of 94 retired names start with the letter – including Ian in 2022, Ida in 2021, Irma in 2017 and Irene in 2011. The letter F comes in second place, with 10 retired names.

By the time the “I” names come into rotation, it’s usually peak hurricane season, University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy told the Associated Press. Still, it may just be bad luck for the letter “I,” said McNoldy, who tracks retired names. “H” and “J” names also typically fall during peak hurricane season, but fewer of those are retired.

Which hurricane names are retired?

NOAA has a list of retired Atlantic names by year.


When the hurricane name lists were made, names of past storms like Carol, Fiona and Beulah were kept off the lists. 

Some years, no names were retired, because none of the hurricanes warranted it. Other years had particularly difficult hurricane seasons, and several names were retired. This recently happened after 2017 storms Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate, which were all removed from circulation. 

Pacific hurricanes get their own name lists and their own retired lists.