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Only one name left on 2020 hurricane List

Next up: The Greek alphabet

16 September 2020

With only one left to go, the National Hurricane Center may soon use the last of the names on the official list of Atlantic storm names for 2020.

Only Wilfred is left on the list of 21 storm names pre-approved for the season by the World Meteorological Organization.

That name could get assigned over the next week. In addition to the four named systems now being watched — Paulette, Teddy, Vicky and Sally — that are expected to cause massive flooding in parts of the Southeast, the center is watching three potential systems. Those systems include one in the eastern Atlantic with a 70% chance of becoming a tropical cyclone over the next five days.

The National Hurricane Center was tracking seven systems on Sept. 15, 2020, two hurricanes, two tropical storms and three potential systems. If one of those potential systems is assigned the last name on the list of 2020 storm names, the center will turn to the Greek alphabet.

Once the hurricane center assigns that last name on the list, it will move into the Greek alphabet. That's only happened once before. The hyperactive 2005 season wound up using six Greek names: Tropical Storm Alpha, Hurricane Beta, Tropical Storm Gamma, Tropical Storm Delta, Hurricane Epsilon and Tropical Storm Zeta.

If Wilfred forms, it's likely to be the earliest "W" storm on record. Like many of the storms this season, Vicky set a record, becoming the earliest 20th Atlantic named storm, breaking a record set by Tammy on Oct. 5, 2005, said Phil Klotzbach, the Colorado State University meteorologist who leads a seasonal hurricane forecasting team.

The naming convention for Atlantic storms began in 1953. An international committee of the meteorological organization approves six lists of names, which are rotated every year. The list used this year will be used again in 2026, with the exception of any names the group decides to retire. For example, it's likely that the name Laura will be retired, because of Hurricane Laura's impacts in the U.S. and Caribbean, including more than 50 deaths.

For those who didn't have to memorize the alphabet while a member of a Greek society in college, here's the list of 24 names next up in the center's rotation after Wilfred: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, Theta, Iota, Kappa, Lambda, Mu, Nu, Xi, Omicron, Pi, Rho, Sigma, Tau, Upsilon, Phi, Chi, Psi, Omega.

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