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florida hurricane ireneBlame Isaac for scattering Caribbean-based cruise ships, upending tightly coordinated shipping schedules, and deluging popular cities and islands. But apparently, none of this should come as a surprise.

According to a recent blog on Weather.com, over the past 11 years, those ornery “I” storms have been among the most destructive of the Atlantic hurricanes. Seven “I” names have been retired by the World Meteorological Organization, a United Nations agency with the curious task of humanizing the potentially catastrophic (among myriad mandates). Storm names are retired by the WMO when the specter of seeing another Hurricane Katrina is deemed too painful.

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The “I” storm phenomenon can partly be explained by the position of the letter in the alphabet within the context of Atlantic Hurricane Season, which runs from June 1 to November 30. According to National Hurricane Center data, a typical Atlantic season is composed of some 11 storms, (±4), with the seasonal peak generally coming around September 10. All seven retire-I’s spawned between August and early October. Weather conditions during this period — low wind shear, higher sea temperatures — are the inspiration for more and bigger storms, right when the “I’s” are statistically set to materialize.

Still, during that 11-year stretch, zero “H’s,” two “J’s” and that very deadly “K” have been put to pasture. Compare that to Irene (August 2011), Igor (September 2010), Ike (September 2008), Ivan (September 2004), Isabel (September 2003), Isadore (September 2002) and Iris (October 2001). Some would call it an I-jinx.

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Fortunately, Isaac didn’t have nearly the gusto of 2011’s Irene, which diverted dozens of cruise ships in the Northeast, Eastern Caribbean, Bermuda and Bahamas, and caused billions in damage and some 40 deaths. No one will soon forget Ike either, which holds the dubious honor of being the United States’ second-most expensive tropical storm, causing nearly $29.5 billion in damage (source: weather.com).

Whatever Isaac’s legacy, here’s hoping that he won’t be retiring any time soon.

– written by Dan Askin and Dori Saltzman

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