What Is Sheila Jackson Lee's Opinion on Naming Hurricanes?


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Sheila Jackson Lee is a representative from Texas in the United States Congress who criticized the processes for naming hurricanes, stating that "all racial groups should be represented" in the names of hurricanes. She made the statement in 2003 when the list of hurricane names for the year included French and Spanish varieties. Lee hoped that future hurricane names "would try to be inclusive of African American names."

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Lee's statement led to some racist emails mocking her opinion. At least one employee of Cobb County, Ga., was fired for sending an offensive email related to the statement. A councilman from Oak Ridge North, Texas, was reprimanded in 2003 for sending a similar email.

The World Meteorological Organization has given names to hurricanes and other tropical storms since 1953. The organization said that giving the storms and hurricanes short, memorable names allowed for better communication with fewer errors. For the first 26 years of naming hurricanes, they were named only after women. That practice changed in 1979, after feminist groups protested.

The National Weather Service's Hurricane Center compiles a possible list of names for hurricanes that extends several years. As of 2014, names on the list include Andrea, Chantal, Ernesto, Humberto, Pablo, Tanya, Van, Whitney, Gabrielle, Gaston and Erin.

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