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Divine winds

There will never be another Ivan, Andrew, Hugo or Mitch, and we shall never see the likes of Katrina, Inez, Fifi or Alicia again. All are names that have been retired from the official list of north Atlantic hurricane names after they caused major havoc and loss of life.

There is a long tradition of personalising nature's most destructive force.

In 1281, Kamikaze or "divine wind" was the name given to the typhoon that saved Japan from Mongol invasion by sinking Kublai Khan's 4000-strong fleet of warriors.

At the tail-end of the 19th century, Australian forecaster Clement Wragge named hurricanes after politicians he didn't like and up until the early 20th-century, Spanish-speaking Caribbean countries named hurricanes after the saint's day they occurred on.

Naming was formalised in 1953 when the US National Weather Service began using an alphabetical list of women's names. Men achieved a dubious equality in 1978.

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) now administers six rotating lists of English, French and Spanish names for hurricanes and tropical storms that occur in the Atlantic basin.

At the time of writing hurricane Katrina had blown out over the Great Lakes, tropical storm Lee and Hurricane Maria blew out over the Atlantic, Nate became a tropical storm and Ophelia and Philippe were awaiting designation.

* www.nhc.noaa.govaboutnames.shtml

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