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'Black' hurricane names
brewing swirl of dissent
Rush Limbaugh rips congresswoman's call for African-American storm monikers

Posted: August 3, 2003
4:45 p.m. Eastern

By Joe Kovacs
© 2003

Was Hurricane Andrew too 'lily white'?

Do devastating hurricanes need help from affirmative action?

A member of Congress apparently thinks so, and is demanding the storms be given names that sound "black."

The congressional newspaper the Hill reported this week that Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, feels that the current names are too "lily white," and is seeking to have better representation for names reflecting African-Americans and other ethnic groups.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas

"All racial groups should be represented," Lee said, according to the Hill. She hoped federal weather officials "would try to be inclusive of African-American names."

A sampling of popular names that could be used include Keisha, Jamal and Deshawn, according to the paper.

Jackson Lee's call is brewing its own storm of response across America.

A WorldNetDaily reader wrote:

"You can be sure if there were too many 'black' names assigned to hurricanes, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee would instead be complaining that this practice unfairly stereotypes blacks as violent. Let's hope this silly storm blows over!"

Another, Greg Cook, says, "This is ridiculous. How about naming the storms after gang members, or infamous criminals? How about not having any name at all associated with hurricanes?"

Regina Roberston writes: "We should only name hurricanes for foreign officials who are in hiding or considered to be terrorists, or assisting terrorists. We could name the hurricanes after known illegal immigrants, since they are both unwanted and unwelcome anyway. Or how about we only choose French names, so the fear of hurricanes will be put to rest?"

Radio talk-show giant Rush Limbaugh says he was having dinner with his wife when he first learned of the proposal.

"I just threw up my hands. I said, 'Has it come to this now?'" Limbaugh recounted on his show.

"There's discrimination and actually elected officials wandering around worried about the discrimination in the name of hurricanes. And hurricanes are destructive. You know nobody's very excited when a hurricane's heading their way, and yet here she is demanding that hurricanes be named after black people.

"You know it used to be that hurricanes were named only after women because they were destructive and unpredictable. And that's the reason. The feminists grew upset about that, demanded that hurricanes be named after men, and so now, the civil rights leaders are demanding black names for hurricanes.

Limbaugh continued his analysis, saying it was not the mainstream populace responsible for what he called the "Balkanization" of race relations in America.

"It is these elected black leaders, the civil-rights coalitions – they're the ones that keep causing all this racial divide, they're the ones that keep calling attention to all this," said Limbaugh. "They're the ones that keep stirring this pot. They're the ones who don't want there to be any colorblind society. They're the ones who keep being agitated and trying to agitate others over all this, and now it's descended into the meaningless element of the names of hurricanes."

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, hurricanes were for centuries named after the Catholic saints' days on which the storms fell.

In 1953, the United States abandoned as confusing a two-year-old plan to name storms by a phonetic alphabet (Able, Baker, Charlie) when a new, international phonetic alphabet was introduced. That year, weather services began using female names for storms.

The practice of naming hurricanes solely after women came to an end in 1978 when men's and women's names were included in the Eastern North Pacific storm lists. In 1979, male and female names were included in lists for the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.
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