The Schluters, who have taken in 120 foster children over the decades, are marveling at the two destructive hurricanes that now happen to be in the news. ‘Really sad,’ says Irma.
Harvey and Irma Schluter have been married for 75 years. He turned 104 in July; she will be 93 in November.
They vividly remember many of the major events of the 20th century, from her first time spotting an airplane, during the Great Depression, to his wonder at watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. In a recent phone interview, Irma Schluter even recalled the weather near her home in Spokane on the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. (Cool and cloudy.)
But never before have they seen two major hurricanes bearing their names threaten the United States.
“I don’t know how they’ve done that, to have a Harvey and Irma,” Irma Schluter said Wednesday. “I don’t know how that worked out.”
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There’s a simple explanation. Since 1979, the World Meteorological Organization has alternated men’s and women’s names for tropical storms born over the Atlantic.
Six master lists of names are kept and used in rotation, so the more minor hurricane names of 2017 will make another appearance in 2023. Only hurricanes that are costly or deadly enough to be memorable have their names retired.
Harvey was first used as a storm name in 1981, and six other storms have had that name. The gale that followed Harvey every six years used to be called Irene. But in 2011, Hurricane Irene pummeled the Caribbean and many cities on the East Coast, so that name was retired, to be replaced by Irma.
Given the ferocity of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in 2017, this will probably be the first and last time the names appear in tandem.
The Schluters, by contrast, have been appearing in tandem since the 1940s, when Harvey was visiting his brother at a duplex in Spokane and ran into Irma, staying with her sister in the apartment below while she attended high school.
Harvey Schluter was smitten. The future Mrs. Schluter, Irma Schumacher, was more hesitant.
“I wasn’t quite through school yet,” she said. “I wanted to wait until I was done. But he talked me into getting married before that.”
The two were wed in 1942 and, after a brief stint living in Fort Meade, Maryland, while Harvey Schluter was still in the Army, they returned to Washington state.
While he went to work as a barber, she…