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For those named Sandy, weathering the storm requires humor, empathy

Mark Palazzolo owner bait tackle shop Manasquan Inlet Point Pleasant Beach N.J. sits next wood he has used board up

Mark Palazzolo, owner of a bait and tackle shop on the Manasquan Inlet in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., sits next to wood he has used to board up his business in previous major storms, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012, in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J. Of Hurricane Sandy, he said, "I think this is going to do us in." (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

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Updated: December 1, 2012 4:36PM



Lately, Sandy Dirker’s colleagues have been calling her a whirlwind and a force to be reckoned with.

The Andrew High School Spanish teacher wishes it was because of her awesome professional skills but, alas, it is simply because of her name.

For people named Sandy, having your name attached to a superstorm can be simultaneously funny, heartbreaking and maddening.

Tuesday morning someone had a Halloween costume idea for the staff: Dirker could be a hurricane and the rest of them could be branches and parts of houses, she said.

It’s all in fun, of course, but Dirker said, “Because it’s a sad situation, I don’t have any clever responses.”

Poking fun makes light of work, she added.

“Weirdest is hearing my name. It’s older and not so common, so it is a little odd to hear someone say, ‘Where is Sandy now?’ And I’m thinking, ‘Right here,’ and then I realize they aren’t talking about me.”

Sandy Arthurs, secretary in the athletic department at Providence Catholic High School in New Lenox, feels Dirker’s pain.

“It’s very weird to hear and see your name everywhere,” Arthurs said. “It’s especially weird working in a school, I walk into the teacher’s lounge and hear, ‘Here comes Hurricane Sandy.’

Her inbox is filled with lots of emails saying, “Oh, you’re creating havoc.” Then friends who got trapped by Sandy while honeymooning in the Bahamas wrote on her Facebook page that it’s “all Sandy’s fault.”

“It’s all been in fun but I always think (about) these poor people going through this,” she said. “My heart goes out to them.”

No one wants their name to be synonymous with devastation. Just ask people named Katrina or Andrew.

But memorability is the very reason hurricanes are assigned names in the first place.

Since 1953, the U.S. National Hurricane Center has developed lists for naming Altantic tropical storms. Today, an international committee of the World Meteorological Organization maintains and updates the lists. At first only women’s names were used. In 1979, men’s names were added. Today, they alternate. The lists are used in six-year rotations, meaning 2012’s list will be used again in 2018.

Names are used because they increase public awareness and make identification easy, said Bill Nelson, observation program leader at the National Weather Service forecast office in Chicago. “Names are easier to remember and their use tends to increase community preparedness.”

In addition to making local residents named Sandy the butt of jokes, Hurricane Sandy is affecting Chicago weather.

Storms that are large in magnitude and that track inland can impact weather across the Midwest, Nelson said. Hurricane Sandy is bringing high winds and creating high waves on Lake Michigan. Back in 2005, Hurricane Katrina brought rain and wind to the area, as well.

Sandy Fernandez said it doesn’t bother her to share her name with a superstorm.

“Yes I’m being teased constantly,” the Whiting, Ind. resident said. “My boyfriend just today told me he was watching the weather and the newscaster said, ‘Boy, this Sandy is really furious.’ I laughed and said, ‘You got that right.’”

She added, “But on a serious note, it is really scary. I am so scared for these people and pray everyone is safe and for God to watch over them.”



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