What's in a name? A lot, if you're talking about Hawaiian hurricanes, according to University of Hawaii Hawaiian language professor Puakea Nogelmeier.
"Iniki" means to pinch, nip or pierce in Hawaiian. It’s the name of Hawaii’s costliest hurricane in 1992.
"Iwa" is the name of another destructive hurricane in 1982, which translates to "thief" in Hawaiian, as in the bird that steals from other birds.
Both names were retired. They were part of the original list of Hawaiian names created in the late 70s.
The list was updated in 2006 because, Nogelmeier said, "We got complaints from the community. Why are they naming them names that are vicious (or) even naming them at all?”
In many traditions, including Hawaiian, if you name something, it'll come to you, according to Nogelmeier.
"You know, I think they just went to the dictionary and tried to look for the sequence of a, e, i, o, u, he, ke, la, mu, nu, pi, we,” said Nogelmeier. “They picked one after another and just made sequential lists.”
"NOAA wanted to do something good (so it) sat down with myself and Jon Osorio and we went through the list that they compiled. We did not compile a list. But what we did is took out all the ones that could have negative, you know, possibly damaging kinds of implications.”
Hawaiian names are rarely used and average less than one storm a year.
Mike Cantin, warning coordination meteorologist at NOAA’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center said, "A storm gets a Hawaiian name if it forms and gets to tropical-storm strength within the boundaries of what we call the Central Pacific basin."
The Central Pacific consists of water anywhere north of the equator, between 140-degrees west longitude and the International Date Line.
"We’re hopeful that it’s a positive,” Nogelmeier said. "We all have impact. So we’re hopeful this is a good one."
The next Hawaiian name on the list is Pewa, a lobster or shrimp tail.
Central Pacific storm names are used one after another despite the year.