Dawson: Hurricanes named after women who shunned weatherman
Hurricane season officially commenced June 1 and will run until Nov. 30. This can be a tense time for people living near the Atlantic Ocean and a strange one for any women who were ever asked out on a date by a member of the World Meteorological Organization.
Up until a few days ago, I thought WMO stood for Wrestlers Making Oatmeal. After an exhaustive 13-second internet search, I discovered WMO actually stood for World Meteorological Society - the folks that name hurricanes.
Actually, the WMO does more than name hurricanes. According to their website, "The WMO is dedicated to international cooperation and coordination on the state and behavior of the Earth’s atmosphere, its interaction with the land and oceans, the weather and climate it produces and the resulting distribution of water resources."
International cooperation and coordination are worthy pursuits, but I was intrigued by the storm-naming process. I've known married couples who've hired marketing teams to help choose a baby name so their kid will have a leg up in the competitive world of preschool, so naming a storm that could potentially wreak havoc on millions of people seems daunting by comparison.
The WMO has developed an alphabetical list of names for storms that can be repeated every six years. Names of especially severe storms are retired from the list, which is why you'll never see another Hurricane Rubert, Lenny or Squiggy.
Curious as to how the list of names originated, I posted a notice on Facebook asking anyone with ties to the WMO to contact me. The first few emails I received were from wrestlers who have an affinity for oatmeal, but late last night an email from someone claiming to be a former World Meteorological Organization employee popped up.
"I've worked for the WMO as a meteorologist since the 1960s," the email stated. "I started out as an intern, which meant I was in charge of picking up Thunderbird and cigarettes for staff breakfast meetings. Eventually, I transitioned into a full-time position, with my main duties being monitoring radar and naming storms."
To populate the storm name list, the anonymous emailer says he made a list of every girl who'd either dumped him or refused to give him the time of day.
"I bombed more than the Enola Gay," the emailer wrote when describing his less than impressive track record with the ladies. "I'd invite girls to the movies every week, but they always had to stay home to wash their hair. To this day when I see a bottle of Pert I sob uncontrollably."
In time, the hurricane name list generated by the WMO would include men's names also.
"Most of the male names on the list were fake names I used when trying to ask out women who'd already turned me down," the emailer wrote. "The 2018 list of names still features many of my aliases, including 'Alberto', 'Kirk' and 'Oscar'."
As for the female names on the list, 'Florence,' 'Leslie' and 'Patty' are names of women who allegedly shunned the anonymous emailer.
"He was nice enough but was obsessed with weather," said Florence McDougal of Tallahassee of our anonymous emailer when I reached out to her. "Once in the high school cafeteria, he overheard me complaining about the hot weather. He was sitting at the table next to me and took it upon himself to give me a lesson about how it was the humidity causing my discomfort, not the heat. After this somewhat condescending presentation, he had the gall to ask me out on a date!"
"I thought she'd be impressed by my meteorological knowledge," the anonymous emailer said of Florence. "She wouldn't go out with me because she had to wash her hair. I then asked if we could go out after she was done, but she said due to the high humidity she might have to wash it three or four times."
After a multi-decade career as a storm-namer, the anonymous emailer said he will be retiring at the end of the year.
"Hopefully, the hurricanes will only harass the fish this season," he said. "I've got a new gig as a district sales manager for a shampoo company. I seem to have a knack for finding women with extreme hair-care needs, so it's time to cash in."