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Will Hurricane Sandy's Name Be Retired?

Hurricane Sandy off the southeastern United States
At noon Eastern Daylight Time (16:00 Universal Time) on October 28, 2012, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this image of Hurricane Sandy off the southeastern United States. (Image credit: LANCE MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC/Michael Carlowicz)

Even though Hurricane Sandy had transformed into a hybrid cyclone-nor'easter when it ravaged the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, weather experts believe the damage left behind will send the name "Sandy" into retirement.

The number of lives lost from Hurricane Sandy has climbed above 110. The devastating storm, second only to Hurricane Katrina in its kinetic energy, a measure of sheer power, caused an estimated $20 billion in property damage and cut power to more than 8 million homes.

Hurricane names are struck from the official list when the World Meteorological Organization's Region IV committee holds its annual meeting in April. Thus, the final decision on retiring the name Sandy is months away.

However, "it is highly expected that the name 'Sandy' will be retired at that time," said Dennis Feltgen, public affairs officer and a meteorologist with the National Hurricane Center.

Since 1953, Atlantic tropical storms have been named from lists created by the National Hurricane Center. They are now maintained and updated by an international committee of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Six lists are used in rotation, and the 2012 list will be used again in 2018.

The only time there is a change in the list is if a storm is so deadly or costly that the future use of its name on a different storm would be inappropriate for reasons of sensitivity, Feltgen told OurAmazingPlanet in an email interview. If that occurs, then, at the annual meeting by the WMO Region IV committee, the offending name is retired from the hurricane list and another name is selected to replace it, he said.

After 2011's Hurricane Irene caused more than $15 billion in damages and 41 deaths in the United States, "Irene" was replaced with "Irma" in 2012. It was the 76th hurricane name to be retired from the Atlantic list since 1954, according to a statement from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Recently retired hurricane names include Irene (2012), Charley ­­(2004), Dennis (2005), Dean (2007), Fabian (2003), Frances (2004), Felix (2007), Gustav (2008), Iris (2001), Isidore (2002), Isabel (2003), Ivan (2004), Ike (2008), Igor (2010), Juan (2003), Jeanne (2004), Katrina (2005), Lili (2002), Michelle (2001), Noel (2007), Paloma (2008), Rita (2005), Stan (2005), Tomas (2010) and Wilma (2005).

Reach Becky Oskin at boskin@techmedianetwork.com. Follow her on Twitter @beckyoskin. Follow OurAmazingPlanet on Twitter @OAPlanet. We're also on Facebook and Google+.

Becky Oskin
Contributing Writer
Becky Oskin covers Earth science, climate change and space, as well as general science topics. Becky was a science reporter at Live Science and The Pasadena Star-News; she has freelanced for New Scientist and the American Institute of Physics. She earned a master's degree in geology from Caltech, a bachelor's degree from Washington State University, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz.