American Culture

Do we need winter storm names?

IceStormFor those of you who have not noticed, the Weather Channel has decided to start a new trend:  named Winter Storms.  I had not realized this effort was being made until a colleague referred to the current storm heading towards the Great Lakes as “Draco.”

“Draco” as in “Draco Malfoy” from Harry Potter.  Actually the Weather Channel claims that their Draco is “The first legislator of Athens in Ancient Greece.”  Yeah, like anyone remembers him.  I’m actually OK with the Draco Malfoy’s name being given to a malevolent weather system.  But the rest of the list  is a little sketchy.  “Iago,” the villain from Othello?  I’m good with that.  Same with “Khan” and “Brutus.”  But “Gandolf”?  What did he do to get put on the Naughty Storms List?  Same with “Luna” and  “Plato.”

The whole concept is silly and seems like part of some media-driven marketing ploy.  The Weather Channel tries to make a good argument for its decision:

  • Naming a storm raises awareness.
  • A storm with a name takes on a personality all its own, which adds to awareness.
  • In today’s social media world, a name makes it much easier to reference in communication. [emphasis added]

Got it:  hashtag #Draco, anyone?  This seems like it belongs in the same category as “Invented Holidays Designed to Sell Stuff” (does anyone even still remember “Sweetest Day?”).

I couldn’t find this discussed, but I wonder if their list is copyrighted (unlike the National Hurricane Center list)?  Also, does this just apply to national storms?  How big does a storm have to be or how far does it have to travel before it merits a name?  For those of us in the Snow Belt, we can get hit seriously without the rest of the country noticing.  Do we get our own names that are geographically relevant?  I’d like “Bradshaw,” “Elway,” and “Modell” to be at the top of the Cleveland list.

But since we’re going down the Silly New Trend path, I’d like to add a few tweaks to make this more fun:

The winter storms need categories, like “F1” or “Hurricane” that indicate the seriousness of the storm.  My colleague suggested, “Eh,” “Negligible,” “Whoa,” and “Hit the Deck!”  Each would, of course, need to be announced in an appropriate and well-rehearsed tone of voice, preferably with a sound track and over-the-top graphics.

The storm names should have also categories.  In the end, Draco Malfoy was a mostly ineffective sniveling coward, so that could reflect on the nature of the intended storm.  I think names like “Voldemort” and “Norman Bates” should be reserved for the truly frightening storms, and we should be able to change their names if they don’t deliver.

Personally, this all seems unnecessary–just ask anyone in Ohio who is old enough to remember about the “Blizzard of ’78” or the “Fourth of July Storm” or the “Xenia Tornado.”  Storms take on their own names without official sanction or a christening by the Weather Channel.

Photo by Cat White

14 replies »

  1. Apparently the hype-factor has worn off for someone at the Weather Channel. Unless they’ve got named storms covered by perfectly-dressed reporters in the line of danger, it’s just not a good day.

  2. Gosh. Could those folks behind the naming of winter storms have been thinking at all about TV ratings, page views, and Klout scores more than the actual needs of the audience?

    • Twitter feeds, Facebook posts, etc. The ease with which they can track this is amazing. Conversely if it turns out that NO ONE uses their storm names, will this campaign just fade away like so many “Storms of the Century” (cue threatening music)?

  3. There’s something about a weather guy(s) sitting in an office in Atlantic, Georgia naming a Midwest blizzard that seems inorganic. Would those of us in the Upper Midwest who live through these things choose a name like “Draco?” I think not. Brutus or or Bad-Ass, maybe…”The Blizzard of 2012″ suits most of us just fine.

    • Having lived through “Ice Jam 2000” in Atlanta (which really was memorable for the destruction and 5 days without power), I get it. That storm was named by a local radio station and given appropriate theme music (DA-DA-DA!). We had NO IDEA it had happened until we arrived back in Atlanta from DC and left the airport, blowing 2 tires on debris on the way home. But I never would have called it “Vlad” or “Leatherface” or anything like that.

  4. I was just asking a friend if this is a new thing or something old I was unaware of. Like you, I had no idea this was happening until I opened The Weather Channel’s website to check on family progress through the path of “last night’s storm” and found out that “Draco” was “pounding the Midwest.”

    Glad to know I’m not the only person amused at this.

  5. Another desperate attempt to frighten us,draco is no longer in control ,its over we will be ok but the ones under dracos power will not .

  6. First we had TOR:CON and now we have STORM:CON and named winter storms. To prevent TWC from taking all the good “CON” names, I hereby claim trademark rights on the names HAIL:CON, BLIZ:CON, SUN:CON, MIST:CON, FOG:CON, RAIN:CON, WIND:CON, SLEET:CON, HUR:CON, ICE:CON, JETSTREAM:CON. CLOUD:CON, FREEZE:CON, FLOOD:CON and QUAKE:CON. My rating system for each will be a number from 0 to 10 with 0 meaning no problems at all and 10 meaning the metaphysical certitude that all life on the planet as we know it will cease to exist.

  7. @ Todd: Thanks for leaving SANTA:CON off the list (it’s a great pub crawl here in Cleveland for you you must dress as Santa or the Mrs., just wearing a hat doesn’t count). I could start on some rant about postmodern media, etc., etc., but that’s treating this too seriously.\

  8. I find it to be part of a larger issue. I find it silly and inappropriate that the Weather Channel considers 1-3″ of snow worthy of “Winter Storm” warnings days in advance. We average 140″/year, and that’s significantly less than 10 miles in any direction except East but we don’t care how much snow falls on the inland sea.

    I think it might be more disturbing that when we hear “Draco” we think of Harry Potter. The Athenian legislator is better, but still of less significance than older associations. The star Alpha Draconis (Thubin in Arabic) was the pole star from c. 3900BC to 1900 AD. The design of the Great Pyramid took Draco’s position into account. The dragon in Latin (Thubin is dragon in Arabic); the Greeks called it Ladon (again, dragon). Hercules slayed Ladon … the constellation Hercules is nearby. Later the myth became that Minerva slayed Draco and tossed the corpse into the sky, where it was frozen by the polar region in contorted form.

    Granted, i’m not above low cultural associations. When i hear “Draco” i think of song, but it’s a song about a centuries old dragon-man that escapes a circus to establish a messianic kingdom in Brazil populated by his copious progeny.

  9. They have been doing it in Connecticut since 1970.

    Hello everyone, WFSB News Director here…To answer the ‘name’ question…. WFSB has been naming winter storms for several decades-so far back our station call letters were WTIC! In the 1970’s we began naming storms. It’s been a tradition since then. Remember Blizzard Larry folks have been talking about all week? We named that. But, there’s a method to to the madness… Let me explain: We only name storms capable of 1/4 inch of ice or 6+ inches of snow. Last year, The Weather Channel announced they’d begin naming storms. We had great (heated) internal debate about what that meant for us. Short answer: nothing. In the end with the support of our loyal viewers, we decided that we would not stop what we’d done for so long- its just part of who we are. And, that’s how we came to Charlotte. Thanks everyone – stay safe! Best, Dana Neves