Stop Giving Storms Human Names

From sexism to childcare, a new system is needed

Elad Simchayoff

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Photo by Library of Congress on Unsplash

“Sachar Adom”

In the early 2000s, Israel installed an alarm system to alert those living in the southern parts of the country of an incoming missile strike from Gaza. A few seconds before the “Kassam” missile would hit, sirens would be heard across designated areas with a female voice calmly calling out “Sachar Adom” — “Red Dawn”. This was deemed less frightening than the sound of a regular siren going up and down. The thing is, in Israel, “Sachar” is actually a very common first name, for both boys and girls.

Many parents and children complained that the system associating the name “Sachar” with a missile strike is causing them additional mental difficulties on top of a very stressful situation. A 9-year-old Sachar told of how other children are making fun of her when she comes to school, or when she’s wearing red. There were many other complaints. Eventually, the system was changed. Instead of “Sachar Adom”, the new recording said “Tzeva Adom” — “Colour Red”.

While writing these lines, the damage caused by hurricane “Ian” is still being assessed. Dozens died, and the physical destruction could amount to billions of dollars. Alongside all of the victims and damage, I can’t help thinking of little Ians, having their names associated with such a horrible disaster.

How Does a Hurricane Get a Name?

Our need to name unusual events is clear. We — humans — are story-telling creatures. We share experiences, we give events names to make them more accessible, more memorable, and more communal. That was the reasoning behind the National Hurricane Center’s decision to name hurricanes and severe storms. After simply (or rather not so simply) attaching altitude-longitude numbers to sort hurricanes, in the early 50s hurricane names were given by the phonetic alphabet. The first hurricane of the year was called Able for the letter “A”, the second was Baker for “B”, and so forth.

This, too, was found to be confusing as names were often repeated. Next, in an attempt to simplify, the National Weather Service decided to give storms female names. This led to sexist remarks, and after campaigns from women groups, in 1979, male…

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Elad Simchayoff

I love writing about what I love. Israeli/British. Father, husband, dog person. Support me by joining Medium via this link: https://eladsi.medium.com/membership