We#039;re running low on names

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 29, 2005

My first taste of a hurricane came in 1979 when, as a little boy, I remember the family gathering around the radio as Frederick came ashore, lashing Mobile.

At that time, in my mind, a hurricane was a literal monster, a thousand times more terrible than a tornado, and something that devoured whole cities and lives like one of those giant, radioactive creatures popular in movies from the 1950s.

Judging from what we've seen in the last few years, I was right on the money. The only difference is hurricanes are as natural as frost on a fall morning, but the atomic bomb birthed Godzilla.

As I write, Hurricane Rita is about to hammer parts of Texas and Louisiana. Only a few short weeks after Katrina left New Orleans underwater and the Mississippi Gulf Coast looking like destruction personified, another major hurricane is going to barrel into the United States.

Ivan, Dennis, Ophelia, Katrina. How much longer can this go on before even the names become redundant? There was a Dennis in 1999 and it came back around in 2005. "Remember Opal?" People around Greenville will ask. "Which one?" we'll be saying 10 years from now.

With the rise of Rita, the Associated Press reported on Thursday that there are now just four names left this hurricane season. Stan, Tammy, Vince and Wilma. The season doesn't end until Nov. 30, officially, but there's still the chance one could whip up in the Atlantic in time for Christmas.

For the first time ever weather forecasters could be going Greek. As in, using the Greek alphabet to designate tropical storms and hurricanes that form after Wilma exhausts English letters. Hurricane Alpha? Hurricane Epsilon?

"If we get into that league, we'll have issues larger than naming storms," Frank Lepore, with the National Hurricane Center, told the AP. "The new phrase will be hurricane fatigue. Let's coin that right now."

At least in the South, Frank, I believe we've already reached that point.

Now, the minute the winds start congregating in the Caribbean or Atlantic the Weather Channel becomes a brief alternative to reality television. At least until the storm grows, then all eyes are on the gulf to find out where Jim Cantore is headed this week.

Or Anderson Cooper.

Or Shepard Smith.

Maybe we should name the hurricanes after them instead.

Kevin Pearcey is Group Managing Editor of Greenville Newspapers, LLC. He can be reached by phone at 383-9302, ext. 136 or by email at editor@greenville.advocate.com.