I have kept this secret much too long.
Many years ago, I was approached by several officials from the National Weather Service who asked if I could talk to them in private, agreeing ahead of time to keep our meeting secret. I said I would and then signed a piece of paper to that effect.
What they wanted, they said, was for me to give them permission to name a Hurricane Danny. They said that recently America had become a very litigious society. In the years prior, nobody sued them. Now there were many lawsuits filed by eager lawyers who said their clients were suffering egregiously, receiving taunts, having mental breakdowns, losing their jobs and reputations because we had named a hurricane after them. These were big deal, class action matters.
But soon thereafter, what they learned was that if they got permission from just one person who was named so-and-so, it made the class action lawsuits collapse. In court, the weather service would state that it was named after this one person and that person had given permission.
I asked them how they had come to me and they said they had chosen me at random. There were millions of people named Danny and I should feel very lucky to have been that person. It was, in fact, an honor.
In these circumstances, I said I would give permission. But I had just two conditions, and they were that a Hurricane Danny could not either hit the eastern end of Long Island or cause major devastation. They went back out to their car to discuss matters and came back and said their superiors had agreed to that. They then presented me the document to sign. They gave me a pen, we wrote a new codicil in the margin about the hurricane never hitting the Hamptons or causing devastation. And then I noticed my permission was in the plural. They told me their policy is that once they have a Hurricane Danny, they repeat that name for the hurricane every few years. They keep doing that, unless they retire a name, which they do if that named hurricane causes great damage. I thought, well, that’s good, the more they use this name, the less devastation. And so I signed.
There have been four Hurricane Dannys since that first one two months after I signed in July 1985. The others were in 1992, 2002 and 2005. In all these the Weather Service was true to its word.
All through these years, and right up until the present day, once a year, I get a lovely fruit basket from the National Weather Service. The note with it wishes me well and thanks me for my cooperation.
This season’s Hurricane Danny was like all the others. It formed up in the Atlantic, it headed west toward Tortola and St. Thomas and Puerto Rico, and during that time it grew into a Category 3 with sustained winds of 115 miles an hour. It also, at one point, dumped nearly 25 inches of rain into the ocean in less than eight hours. Then its winds declined and it continued onto the islands to pelt a very much needed hard rain on the islands which, until then, had been suffering a drought. Then it faded away.
I recently got the contracts out and reviewed them. In spite of our secrecy bargain, there are no punishments that I would suffer if I were to tell all. During the 32 years that have passed since I have signed, there has been massive damage done by hurricanes with different names. I refer most specifically to Katrina and Sandy. As a result, I think I have been remiss in not revealing this deep dark secret. Well, I am revealing it now. I would like future citizens, when approached, to put in this same codicil, not about the Hamptons necessarily, but about the devastation, or lack of it in exchange for signing. The National Weather Service is willing, apparently. Take advantage of it.