Met Éireann’s Evelyn Cusack confirms more storm names will be gender neutral after Sam, Val and Elliot are included in upcoming winter list

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More storm names will be gender neutral in the future as the tradition of swapping names for girls and boys is outdated, the Met Éireann forecast manager said.

Velyn Cusack said the move was an attempt at modernization and reflected a change in attitude towards gender in society.

“Hurricanes used to only have female names until the late 1970s and have swapped names for boys and girls since then,” she said. “But it’s just a convention – we’re not committed to it.”

Ms Cusack confirmed that the move towards gender-neutral names was first suggested in June by the UK desk and was supported by the Irish and Dutch desks.

She said choosing gender-neutral names was “more up to date”. She added: “It makes no difference weather-wise.”

The European Storm Naming Group announced its list of names for the upcoming winter season last month, as voted on by members of the public. It included three gender-neutral names: Sam, Val, and Elliot.

In an email to UK and Dutch colleagues at the end of the naming process, Ms Cusack suggested the group could meet next April to formulate a more concrete plan, adding that she liked the idea of ​​names neutral.

The group met in June to discuss possible names for the 2022/23 winter storm season, according to documents released under freedom of information laws.

“All groups will have their names ready and then we can all agree to use each other’s names or veto those that are not suitable.” Ms Cusack wrote ahead of the Storm Naming Group meeting.

It is understood that the use of more gender-neutral names was discussed at the meeting.

On June 11, someone from the Met Office from the Netherlands wrote to Ms Cusack, saying: ‘We’re totally okay if you put gender-neutral names on the list.’

The European Storm Naming Group was first launched by Met Éireann and the UK Met Office in 2015 to raise awareness of severe weather and avoid confusion caused by storms having different names in each country.

The Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute joined the initiative in 2020.

Storms are given a name when they are severe enough to be accompanied by an orange or red warning. Red advises to “take action” and orange means “be prepared”. Meteorological offices use an alphabetical system, normally alternating between male and female names, but excluding Q, U, X, Y and Z.

In February, a red warning was issued ahead of Storm Eunice, which left thousands of homes and businesses without power.

The final list of storm names, announced last month, are: Antoni, Betty, Cillian, Daisy, Elliot, Fleur, Glen, Hendrika, Íde, Johanna, Khalid, Loes, Mark, Nelly, Owain, Priya, Ruadhán , Sam, Tobias , Val, Wouter.

Last year, Ms Cusack objected to the name Toby being used because of its connection to Roots: The Saga of an American Family, a book about slavery in America. She included a link to the Wikipedia page of Kunta Kinte, the story’s main character, in an email to her colleagues when she vetoed the suggestion. Ms Cusack also objected to her own name being used.

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