Should I Fear Storms With Names?

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They said it, not me.

For the past three years, The Weather Channel has adopted a widely criticized advertising strategy of giving names to winter storms.  They’re not doing it to make you safer, or even to make it simpler to take about storms. What they want to do is get you talking about these storms and, more importantly, clicking on links to their web pages. Why? Because no respectable meteorological organization uses, or even acknowledges, those names.  So, when you hear that a winter storm called Lovemuffin is “bearing down on the east coast,” for example, then google “Lovemuffin” you’re going to end up at a Weather Channel site–or a cooperating site that is financially connected to the Weather Channel. Heck, they register these names as proprietary. In essence, they’ve found a way to “own” the news.

Even worse, in order to drive interest in their sites, the Weather Channel adopts a hyperbolic reporting posture. Every storm becomes the potential storm to end all storms, every squall threatens to become a blizzard, every blizzard the fresh dawn of a new ice age. Accompanying stories urge us to take measures that may increase our chances of survival–make sure your shovel is solid, buy flashlight batteries and candles, extra toilet paper, rent some movies, load up the shopping cart with Diet Coke and Oreo cookies.

Fortunately, they have not gone unopposed. A Facebook page, called STOP The Weather Channel From Naming Winter Storms–It’s Stupid emerged to challenge this scourge, and plenty of news articles, commentary, and essays have likewise pointed out the ridiculous and cynical nature of the Weather Channel’s ploy. Accuweather has spoken against the naming  storms, and the National Weather Service has refused to acknowledge the storm names.

In the mean time, it is difficult to know, without carefully inspecting every weather report for its sourcing, just how we should react. Is there really a horrifying, dangerous storm on the way, or is a media outlet just trying to keep their ratings up? And then, when that turns out to be the case, when do we pay the price after so much crying wolf, when will we become so immune to the hysteria that we fail to heed the warning–and how many will pay the price?

I put a million links up there–a million, count ’em–as references, but this essay is particularly interesting and enlightening.

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About JunkChuck

Native, Militant Westsylvanian (the first last best place), laborer, gardener, and literary hobbyist (if by literary you mean "hack"). I've had a bunch of different blogs, probably four, due to a recurring compulsion to start over. This incarnation owes to a desire to dredge up the best entries of the worst little book of hand-scrawled poems I could ever dream of writing, salvageable excerpts from fiction both in progress and long-abandoned. and a smattering of whatever the hell seems to fit at any particular moment. At first blush, I was here just to focus on old, terrible verse, but I reserve the right to include...anything. Maybe everything, certainly my love of pulp novels growing garlic, the Pittsburgh Steelers and howling at the moon--both figuratively and, on rare occasions, literally.
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5 Responses to Should I Fear Storms With Names?

  1. joey says:

    Interesting.
    We had Winter Storm Ion which didn’t affect us, but thousands of Indianapolis residents lost power for days. This is in sharp contrast to my Great Aunt Lucy who lost her home to Hurricane Charley. Charley is a word of reference, like Katrina and Sandy, hm?
    Do nor’easters have names? Do thunderstorms? Tornadoes?
    I can’t remember if the big ice storm I experienced as a youth had a name back then. Ice storm. We called it The Ice Storm, and we muddled through with propane burning in our kitchen like a campfire.
    I hadn’t really noticed this naming thing, or its suggested marketing, so now I find I’m more curious.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. mysecretme75 says:

    The year we had a devastating blizzard in our area that killed so much livestock it wiped out some ranchers completely was the first year they started naming winter storms. It really was a blizzard worth naming if ever there was one. Plus it came in October, not really typical for us, so people weren’t really prepared.

    I was told the story that it was for FEMA and insurance tracking reference purposes. Our NWS local page also referred to the storm by name for historical purposes.

    However, I agree that naming winter storms is stupid. It’s just a blizzard it happens every winter. Some are worse than others.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. tedgiffin says:

    When I went to walk my dog tonight in the freezing cold. My thought was that if I am to believe the news in general, or the weather channel, that I must FREAK OUT that THE END OF THE WORLD IS NEAR because it is winter and it is cold. The effect being is I must not walk outside without being TOTALLY PARANOID.. Still though, this is very amusing to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Is it possible to name a light summer rain Beatrice? I’d like to remember her fondly that way.
    Nor-easter Anus, or whatever his name might have been only dropped about four inches on us here in NEPA. I almost feel cheated. Your article made up for it. Well controlled rant, and I respect that.

    Like

  5. ssgt leslie says:

    Disappointed because hurricanes were the only named storms.

    Like

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