Name 'Katrina' fades, except in storm zone

As baby names go, Katrina isn't in vogue these days. But she isn't persona non grata, either.

From its peak in the 1980s - when it regularly ranked among the 100 most popular names that parents chose for their daughters - it had gradually slumped to 247th by 2005, even before Hurricane Katrina smashed the Gulf Coast in late summer of that year.

The name's association with the catastrophe has now knocked it out of consideration for most parents, sinking its popularity to the lowest ebb since the 1950s.

Only about 850 baby girls in the United States were named Katrina last year, according to new data released Friday by the Social Security Administration, dropping it more than 100 slots on the popularity list. At a rank of 382nd, it now sits just below Brenna.

Ironically, the two states that suffered most of Katrina's wrath bucked the trend, if only in small numbers.

In Louisiana, the number of babies named Katrina jumped from eight in the 12 months before the storm to 15 in the 12 months after, according to state health officials. In Mississippi, seven babies were given the name from 2004 until the storm hit in August 2005, according to state data. The number climbed to 24 from September 2005 through the end of 2006.

The national trend surprised Cleveland Evans, a psychology professor and names expert at Bellevue University in Nebraska. Usually, he said, publicity around a name - positive or negative - will cause it to spike. After Hurricane Camille devastated the Gulf Coast in 1969, for example, the name Camille quickly became more popular, he said.

"So many parents are looking for a new, unusual name, there are always a few of them who are going to take it from any cultural event," said Evans, the past president of the American Name Society. "There must be some sort of (negative) threshold and Katrina must have crossed it."

Still, he said Katrina isn't likely to go extinct.

"This is not going to be a name like Adolf that's going to disappear and be unusable ever again," he said, referring to that name's association with Adolf Hitler. "Even though it will be associated with this disaster I think there are enough other associations that it will continue to be a popular name."