Was Sandy a guy or girl?

Now that Sandy has finally dissipated in fact — if not in effect — people want to know all sorts of things: what does Sandy mean for the election? Was it caused by global warming? Will power ever be restored on Long Island?

But I’ve come across only one person asking the truly important questions:

Hurricane Sandy. Sandy? What kind of name is that? Are you a dude storm or a lady storm?

Sandy, like Sandy Koufax (Dodgers) and Sandy Cohen (the OC)? Or Sandy, like Sandy Day O’Connor — OK, is the lack of women I immediately recognize on Wikipedia’s list of people named Sandy an indication that Sandy was a guy?

Turns out there’s a definitive answer: Hurricane Sandy was a chick.

Hurricane Names are chosen years ahead of time, but follow two very predictable patterns: One, their names go in order of the Alphabet, so Hurricane Alastair always comes before Hurricane Bishnu comes before Hurricane Caligula, and so on. Two, their names alternate by gender, so Hurricane Moses would never by followed by Hurricane Nachman m’Uman – though Hurricane Miriam might.

So all you have to do to determine Sandy’s gender is look at this year’s pre-published Hurricane list and figure out whether the odd names are male and the even female, or vice versa. Here’s the list:


I’ll admit that after getting through the first two names on the list (Alberto, Beryl), the answer was far from clear. But as I worked my way down, I realized that — fortunately — not every girl is named something ambiguous like Beryl. Or Sandy.

As for Sandy — wedged between Rafael and Tony — indisputably a girl.

Those of you who went to Penn might note with regret that had the 2012 season seen two fewer hurricanes, the storm that hit last week would have been named Patty. Best headline ever to never exist: NEW YORK FEARS ARRIVAL OF PATTY. PATTY TURNS NEW YORK INTO A PATTY. Or maybe PATTY DEVASTATES MILLIONS (that one courtesy of Patty herself). I can’t decide.

Have no fear: we may see Patty again in our lifetimes. You see, so long as a Hurricane does not cause significant damage, its name will be recycled.* So there will never be another Andrew, Betsy, Katrina, Irene, or Sandy**, but you could theoretically see anything else on the above list again – including Patty or Patricia.

But while Patty may reappear during your lifetime, you’re likely to be waiting for a while. I’ve been waiting for Hurricane Gail (get it? it’s a pun) to come back – and it hasn’t been used since 1953.


*If it weren’t, every Hurricane would have a bizarre name by now, like Beryl. You can tell they’re really scraping the bottom of the, well, barrel.

**I was surprised to note Isaac on this year’s list of Hurricanes, given that Hurricane Ike was the third most-damaging hurricane to ever make landfall in the United States. But remember, Ike doesn’t have to be short for Isaac – it’s also a nickname for Dwight. So Hurricane Ike was really Hurricane Dwight. Bears, beets, Battlestar Galactica.


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