Why We Should Name the Storm

No Telling
Oldest known photograph of a tornado – August 28, 1884. South Dakota.

Yes, it’s hurricane season. I’ve been watching reports lately about that feisty Jimena, the one who threatens to ugly-up the Baja peninsula. Odd are she’ll wrap herself up once inland and head right straight through Arkansas. They always do, and even though these hurricanes are watered down by the time they visit us, there’s usually plenty of rain and a few fiery storms to make things interesting. We’ll have an errant tornado or three.

The tornadoes we’re stomped with have no names, at least nothing as swanky as “Jimena.” It must be because hurricanes are measured by what devilry they may bring, while tornadoes are only measured afterwards. All storms have numbers – category 4, F-3, that sort of thing – but only hurricanes have names.

So why can’t we name our tornadoes? I think we need a frame of historical reference at the very least. Here’s an example:

“That twister back in ’93 was a demon. ‘Member it?”

“That one that took Mr. Hightower’s fence and made a necklace of it over to the water tower?”

“Naw, I’m talkin’ about the one in the fall, the one that sliced the Chevron station in half. Found that ‘Pay Inside’ sign – remember? -stuck in the front glass of daddy’s Ford. You was there.”

“Damn. I thought it was that one closer to Christmas when we found all them dead fish from the waterspout. Them filleted ones.”

“Naw, now, that was the Chevron twister. Picked up the whole stockpond and shook it like a hound.”

“Ohhh, yeah. You’re right. I was there.”

You see my point. Our disasters need naming just like anyone else’s. Probably even more so, because we can’t rally ’round a good storm story if everyone’s confused.

I realize the National Weather Service (NOAA) has a lot on its plate just now, what with all the hurricane naming and warnings and projected paths and such. I hate to give them more work than they can comfortably handle. They’re performing a vital service and I’m sure many of their employees are working long days.

So here’s my proposal, NOAA: You name the tornadoes whenever you feel it’s warranted, and I’ll do the gruntwork necessary to supply the names. Gratis. In fact, I’ll start out with a few right now. Feel free to use them as you see fit and let me know if you need any more. I found these in the local phone book and there are scads more where these came from.

Tornado Names: Female

Anaverle, Beulah, Cozetta, Dymple, Elva, Flodine, Georgia, Halogene, Iva, Jo Nell, Kitty, Lurleen, Mavis, Nevetta, Otha, Pearlene, Queenie, Rowleena, Sissy, Twanette, Una, Vernice, Wanda, and Zelma.

Tornado names: Male

Ace, Buford, Clyde, Dax, Elmore, Finis, Garrett, Harvenious, Israel, Junior, Kimbro, Lester, Millard, Noble, O’Dell, Percy, Rusty, Skeeter, Twig, Ulis, Vester, Windle, and Zeke.

I left a few letters out, mainly because I’m not partial to names beginning with Q, X or Y. Makes no difference. What’s important is that we give each tornado a distinct identity. Simply calling a twister an “F-2” is hardly personal, and believe me, nothing is more personal than finding your car twisted around the uprights at the local ballfield.

Besides, using local names gives the storm a regional flavor. Retelling the storm would be much easier, and dire warnings more effective.

“Get the kids in the cellar, honey! This’n makes Skeeter look like a soft breeze!”


39 thoughts on “Why We Should Name the Storm

  1. I love the idea of naming tornados. We don't get many up in the Front Range of Colorado, so naming them is fairly unnecessary. We refer to our most recent one as “The Windsor Tornado”, which was in May of '08. So, I guess the name took care of itself in our case.

    And, I beg to differ, Skeeter is a girl's name. At least according to Tara Janzen; her character Skeeter is who I want to be when I grow up. But I love the name Tornado Skeeter.

  2. I remember as a small child my aunt agnes blowing into town, her hair piled high as a mountain on her head…words flying out of her mouth left and right…by the time she left, our house looked like it had been hit by an atom bomb. So my vote goes for the name Agnes, after my dear, sweet, full of hot air auntie:)

  3. This is an interesting idea and information. Fortunately we have no tornadoes in The Czech Republic… (maybe once or twice we had really little ones) basically we have just flash floods but some are terrible and maybe we should give them names, too…
    btw. I like your blog a lot – interesting reading

  4. What a fantastic idea. We get a few tornadoes here in Michigan but they are referred to as “oh, you remember the one south of Webberville where the old couple . . . ” or “that one that went through the main four corners of town before taking out that house trailer . . . ” It would be so much easier to give these a single moniker. 🙂 M

  5. I know I shouldn't laugh at names people ACTUALLY have, but Lurleen? That's wonderful! It's a brilliant idea and well done you for putting in the hard graft – you'll probably have one named after you as a great honour.

  6. GunDiva, Skeeter must be one of those gender-neutral names like Pat or McKenzie. You're right, though – I've seen grown men and little girls called 'Skeeter'.

    It's true, there's not much time for naming before they hit, Jeanette. We'd have to tag them after.

    Kate, I LOVE Modine!

    Do we ALL have an Aunt Agnes, Steven? Great description. I vote Agnes.

    Em-illi, name those floods! Why, there's not a disaster that doesn't need a name.

    See, Amuse Me? There's just too much geographical confusion involved. I'm naming the next one – with or without NOAA.

    Oh, Alice. I collect names and these were the easy ones from my lists. I chose 'Lurleen,' for example, over 'Listerine.' If we have enough tornadoes, we may have to use it anyway.

  7. Hmmmm…. I never thought about naming tornadoes. Of course you'd have to name them after the fact since you only have about a 3-5 minute warning before they hit BUT it seems like a perfectly logical idea to me!

  8. I wholly agree with you on needing to name tornadoes. Living in western KY we see our fair share at times (not nearly as many as you thank goodness) and it is rather difficult to keep them in order in our minds. Also, I love the names you suggested. They are all very appropriate sounding.

  9. LOL – love the colorful dialogue! And the names – don't you just love the phone book? Truth is stranger than fiction for sure when you read the names in the phone book.

  10. You should just start naming them and referring to them by name in front of people who are not in on the scheme. They'll think you're some tornado-loving nutjob or possibly just start going with it so they don't seem like they're 'out of the loop'. 😀

  11. I never thought about naming tornadoes. When I lived in a house and there was bad weather, I was always huddled in the basement, shaking like a hairless chihuahua. Now that I live in a trailer and travel? OMG – we've been in bad weather and I just cry and sprinkle holy water around in each room and over my husband and me, while he rolls his eyes and says, “We'll be fine.” Famous last words. Those are the words that will be on our gravestone. “He said we'll be fine” on his and “I was right – we weren't” on mine.

    If you have that many tornadoes that you have to name them? I'd get the hell out of dodge, my friend.

    By the way, I had a dog named Skeeter growing up. He was a MALE.

  12. I think why they don't name tornados is because there are a lot more tornados than there are hurricanes. I think Tornados, at least here in Canada, are named after they happen and are usually catastrophic. Two tornados that I know that have been given names by the community are “Black Friday” in Edmonton and “Pine Lake Tornado” by Red Deer.

  13. You've got a great idea with naming tornadoes! Love your name suggestions too! I just came across your blog and will have to read the previous posts. This one was a hoot!

    The Alice from Kansas who, as a child, experienced the giant '66 tornado hunkered down in the basement of a movie theatre with my mother and sisters, then had to walk a mile home through all the debris.

  14. That photo was taken from within a spit of where I grew up. Probably could have seen it from my house had I been around then.

    I remember the Spencer tornado, A. Dakota. Had some friends there that I was concerned about.

  15. Pat, in all honesty, I thought Skeeter was a male until the end of the book, when she was revealed. But I still want to grow up to be her. I love Julia Eff's suggestion – let's see how many people you can get to start referring to them by name.

    Thanks for the good laugh, Monda. I always love reading your posts.

  16. You don't think of Michigan as a place for tornadoes, but I saw many when I lived up there for 22 years. I think they DO deserve names! I remember one (actually, THREE) when I was just 12 that took out newly built structures on the Michigan State University campus. In one night, three tornadoes ripped through the campus. I happened to be there on a trip for 4-H and everyone was in the basements of the dorm buildings.

    Another one took out several miles of houses and pullbarns just two years ago, and killed three people my sister-in-law lived right next to, but her house went untouched.


  17. I vote we keep things simple, as they currently are. We get the tail ends of all sorts where I live, it would never do to get all the other descriptors mixed up with the given title of the weather condition. It would end up being an enormous confused Chinese Whisper, instead of a recognisable phenomenon.

  18. I think it's a good idea to name tornadoes. People around my neck of the woods are all about relating things to names, relatives, and folks in general. So, hows about Zelpha and Aquanetta for the ladies. Seriously… I mean I couldn't make those names up.

    Uncle Funk and Terrapin for the gents?

  19. I swear. Everyone has a tornado story and it's a wonder any of us are still here to tell them.

    Maybe instead of naming them like they do hurricanes (boy, girl, boy, girl) we should leave the naming up to the person who spots it first. They do that with stars. That way you could name it after yourself or some mean mother-in-law, depending.

    Hey, this may be the only way I get one named after me. I'm reaching, here.

    And Sandy, when you're finished polishing that tornado poem up, share with us!

  20. The people my in-laws grew up with have some country folk names: Eldred, Vondell, Vergie (I believe Eldred to be a boy name; the other two girls). Skeeter can be a boy name – a buddy of mine from high school was called that.

    Here in Alabama, the tornados can be so frequent that the name list would have to be plenty long.

  21. Harvenius? Absolutely superb. Belongs right up there with Tarquin, the name I use whenever i can't think of a name. “Uh, yeah, g'day… uh, it's tarquin, isn't it?” Hit 'em with that and they'll fall over laughing, and give you their name. Next time, it's Harvenius.
    We don't get too many tornadoes here in New Zealand, and the ones we do get are tiddlers.. we have to throw 'em back after they've torn up a roof or two. Don't envy you a bit… but I do agree that naming them is an absolute necessity.

  22. Love this! Being from Kentucky, we did see a few tornadoes…and our HS mascot was the Torndado. Too true, we should definitely name though…how about Gladys Pearl and Glarin Earl (boy/girl twins from my family tree)?

  23. Ah, Jeff in Alabama, don't you fret. I've got a list long enough to circle the alphabet six or seven times over. I can't wait.

    Aotea said “tiddlers.” I'm using that from now on.

    GunDiva, hurry and come up with some. It's a sad day when New Zealand, The Land of Tiddler-Tornadoes, can come up with names that good. I'll have to step up my game.

    Glarin Earl. Camelot, that's a prize name if ever I heard one. Maybe all of our names need identifiers – Stinky Skeeter, Muddy Mabel. Like that.

  24. Twanette is far and away my favorite. Twanette can do some serious damage, I'm guessing. I'm thinking she could, for example, lift a McDonald's right off its foundation and scatter french fries across three states. They'd be finding slim taters even weeks later.

  25. I'm feeling that, MJ. I suspect a Dymple couldn't pick up a respectable snow-cone stand. We may need to do away with the alphabetical rule altogether.

    Constructive, we don't get proper hurricanes here. We do get their gully-washing leftovers, though.

  26. Oh, Monda, all I can say is that I just love ya, Girl. I laughed so hard I was crying and all I could think of was Uncle Melvin, bless his heart, holding on to the washer for dear life when the big one hit Manila back in 1997.

  27. You are so funny, Monda! I want to drive down to Arkansas and take one of your classes (oh, to be young again).

    I think tornado naming is an excellent idea, and seeing as how they mostly plague us here in the Midwest (aka Tornado Alley), the names are perfect.

    And frankly, Otha is the funniest name I've ever heard.

  28. I'll name the next one Otha in your honor, Saphron. I'd like to be young again, too. In fact, I've lied about my age so diligently I may already be young again.

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