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H-word verboten along Alabama's beachfronts

ORANGE BEACH (AP) — The word "hurricane" isn't heard much these days along Alabama's beaches.

Much like you don't joke about bombs in an airport, officials along the Alabama gulf coast don't want to hear the word hurricane used along the state's white sandy shores.

If you hear officials along the coast talk about a possible hurricane, they're most likely to use the words "tropical occurrence."

It started in November 2005 at the end of a year that saw the coast hit by two hurricanes, Dennis and Katrina, and a year after Ivan devastated the area.

That's when Alabama Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau President Herb Malone went to the city councils of both Orange Beach and Gulf Shores and asked municipal leaders to help him erase remnants of the past two storm seasons.

The storms had seriously dampening the area's $2-billion-a-year tourism trade. In the 15 months since Ivan struck, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, a quasi-governmental office charged with bringing vacationers to Alabama's beaches, had pushed a message of swift recovery.

Stop talking about it

By the fall of 2005, however, Malone, at the suggestion of the bureau's consultants, decided to change course. There would be no more news releases describing how many condo towers and charter boats were back in business, he decided.

"Our consultant always told us consumers have short memories and we didn't need to keep reminding them," Malone said. "When you tell someone you're back, well, 'where have you been?' "

With that in mind, he asked municipal leaders to pursue demolition of derelict properties, clean up the last bits of debris, clip browned palm fronds, remove photos of storm damage from city Web sites and take the plywood off the windows.

He also asked — partially in jest, he said later — that they stop using the word "hurricane."

Malone chose "tropical occurrence" as a replacement and it stuck.

In both cities, officials have embraced the euphemism.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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