Alphabet soup: Alpha, Beta are first Greek-letter storms in Atlantic basin since 2005

Alphabet soup: Alpha, Beta are first Greek-letter storms in Atlantic basin since 2005

MIAMI — For the second time in history, the National Hurricane Center has run out of names for tropical systems in the Atlantic basin.

The 2020 season does not end until Nov. 30, but the hurricane center has already run through all 21 allotted names for storms. That means for the first time since 2005, Greek names will be used to designate tropical systems.

On Friday, Tropical Storm Wilfred, Subtropical Storm Alpha and Tropical Storm Beta formed within hours of each other, the National Hurricane Center said. Wilfred officially formed about an hour before Alpha. That led the hurricane center to tweet, “get out the Greek alphabet” for the rest of 2020.

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“It’s crazy,” University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy told the Miami Herald. “This is just off the charts. We’ve made a joke of breaking records.”

The hurricane center, which began using the alphabet to name storms in 1953, does not use Q, U, X, Y and Z to name storms since there are not enough names to fill those letters.

In 2005 there were 27 named storms, and the National Hurricane Center had to use six Greek letters. Zeta was the last-named storm of the active 2005 season, forming on Dec. 30. It was preceded by Gamma, Delta and Epsilon.

The 2020 season is proving to be just as active. All three storms that formed Friday set records for the earliest 21st, 22nd and 23rd-named Atlantic storms, beating 2005 by several weeks, the Herald reported.

This season is also unusual because of where the storms have formed. Alpha, for example, swirled to life off the coast of Portugal and is expected to make landfall sometime late Friday before weakening. The storm is so far to the east, it barely appears in the graphic the National Hurricane Center updates on its website.

Beta, which formed as a tropical depression in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico on Thursday night, reached tropical storm status on Friday evening and could impact the Texas coast sometime Sunday.

“The 2020 season has been remarkable,” CNN meteorologist Taylor Ward said. “Every tropical wave or disturbance seems to be developing into a named storm. This stretch of hyperactivity is extremely rare.”

While the Atlantic basin now has storms with Greek letter names, Greece had its own system to contend with.

A rare hurricane in the Mediterranean Sea -- called a “medicane” -- made landfall over western Greece on Friday, CNN reported. The storm, named Ianos, hit Lefkada Island, according to the Hellenic National Meteorological Service. The storm, with 62 mph winds, has caused property damage but there have been no reported injuries or deaths, CNN reported.