Study: Hurricanes with female names are more deadly

Could a "Hurricane Michelle" be deadlier than a "Hurricane Michael?" Some researchers think so. Sunday was the start of hurricane season, where meteorologists usually find hurricanes, tropical storms, and tropical depressions forming in the Atlantic Ocean. Traditionally the storms are given names like Hurricane Andrew or Hurricane Irene, and researchers at the University of Illinois have found that the gender of the storm might predict the number of fatalities in a storm.

The researchers looked at every hurricane that hit the US between 1950 and 2012, and compared the death toll of both the male named storms and the female named storms. They found, on average, a masculine named storm would kill 15 people while a feminine named storm, with the same strength, would kill 42. But the researchers say that this has nothing to do with coincidence. Instead, it's our own feelings about the names.

People might hear the name "Hurricane Victor" and go to higher ground, but hear "Hurricane Vicki" and expect heavy rain and nothing more.

The study's co-author says, "Individuals assess their vulnerability to hurricanes and take actions based not only on objective indicators of hurricane severity, but also on the gender of hurricanes. This pattern may emerge because individuals systematically underestimate their vulnerability to hurricanes with more feminine names, avoiding or delaying protective measures."

So as hurricane season begins, remember to check the weather and respond to a storm based on its severity. Not its name.

The Latest from our Partners