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Why are hurricane names that start with ‘I’ the most commonly retired?

Hurricane Idalia is the latest devastating storm to be given a name starting with the ninth letter in the alphabet.
/ Source: TODAY

If you've noticed the most destructive hurricanes in the past two decades seem to have names beginning with the letter "I," you're not alone.

Hurricane Idalia, which is currently wreaking havoc along Florida's Gulf Coast, is the latest devastating Atlantic Ocean storm to be given an "I" name.

Idalia made landfall at around 8 a.m. Aug. 30 as a Category 3 storm. By Wednesday afternoon, the hurricane headed toward Georgia and is now classified as Category 1.

Idalia — like Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Irma — is an example of a hurricane with an "I" name, the most commonly retired type.

How many hurricane names starting with 'I' have been retired?

The World Meteorological Organization, the group that has given hurricanes their names since 1954, opts to retire the names of hurricanes that cause severe loss of life or property for reasons of sensitivity.

Of the 94 retired names, a total of 14 storm names beginning with the letter “I” have been retired, besting any other letter.

According to the National Hurricane Center, they are:

  • Ione ’55
  • Inez ’66
  • Iris ’01
  • Isidore ’02
  • Isabel ’03
  • Ivan ’04
  • Ike ’08
  • Igor ’10
  • Irene ’11
  • Ingrid ’13
  • Irma ’17
  • Iota ’20
  • Ida '21
  • Ian '22

Idalia has not been retired. The World Meteorological Organization's committee will meet in 2024 to go over hurricane names from the 2023 season, including Idalia.

Why have so many hurricanes with 'I' names been retired?

Some storm experts, like TODAY's own weather man Al Roker, have argued that "I" hurricanes are so destructive because of when they occur in the hurricane season, which begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30, with Sept. 10 being the peak.

Storms with “I” names fall in the ninth spot on the WMO’s list of storm names for the Atlantic Ocean every year. The first storm of the season always starts with "A" before progressing through the alphabetical list.

"I" storms tend to form in around late August or September, when ocean temperatures are warm and winds are light. Al tells that generally speaking, that time of year tends to have "optimum" conditions for hurricane formation.

"The ocean’s at its warmest. There’s more activity coming off the African coast,” Al says. "It’s just kind of that mid point almost of ‘I,' that just from an odds standpoint, most of the factors line up.”

Mark Wool, the warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Tallahassee, Florida, notes that while there are some exceptions, like 1992's Hurricane Andrew, storms with names from the beginning of the alphabet tend to be weaker.

"We have to work through those letters before we get into the heart of hurricane season, the strongest hurricanes," Wool says. "Most of the major hurricanes develop in the month of August, September and October. And you know, by the time you get to ‘I’ you’re in that meat of the season ... If your storms occur in May, in June, they’re typically not going to be as strong."

But Brian McNoldy, a senior hurricane researcher at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric and Earth Science, points out that it might just be coincidence.

"Look at the letters around it. G, H and K are less than half of ('I's' count). If it were related to the time of year you’d think those would be close to (the count)," McNoldy tells

He added that the majority of history's other most destructive hurricanes have happened at completely different times during the hurricane season, nowhere near the ninth spot.

"The next most frequently retired letter is F, then C," McNoldy says.

Consider this: A total of 10 "F" hurricane names have been retired since 1954, when the WMO first began retiring hurricane names.

Out of the total 14 retired "I" hurricane names, a whopping seven were retired in the last 14 years. Twelve were retired after 2000.

McNoldy says there is yet "another degree of luck" at play when it comes to the phenomenon of the destructive I-named storms: Hurricanes rarely form all by themselves.

"When you're in that type of active hurricane season, there’s more than likely more than one storm that can form," he explained.

But somehow, at least in the last two decades, it's the "I" hurricanes , over and over, that have consistently turned out to become the most destructive.

McNoldy, for one, finds the infamous "I" hurricane trend fascinating. "It’s certainly strange that 'I' keeps getting reinforced," he said.