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Why is the Weather Channel Naming Winter Storms Like Hurricanes? [FACT + OPINION]

Spencer Platt, Getty Images

Folks in the Northland are proud of their hearty nature – being able to bundle up and deal with some of the harshest Mother Nature can cook up. While we’re used to winter being a long string of cold and snow, the Weather Channel feels these winter events are a bigger deal, looking to name winter storms similarly to how hurricanes are named.

The Weather Channel announced this week they plan to name significant winter storms, just as the National Hurricane Center names tropical storms and hurricanes. While this sounds strange to us in the United States, the Weather Channel says the trend of naming all significant weather systems is commonplace in Europe.

The Weather Channel’s website goes on to explain some of the reasons naming a storm is a good idea, saying:

  • Naming a storm raises awareness.
  • Attaching a name makes it much easier to follow a weather system’s progress.
  • 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.
  • A named storm is easier to remember and refer to in the future.
Storms this year will follow a similar scheme to how hurricanes are named – using a list of alphabetical names in order as the storms happen. Greek names will be used for this year’s storms (see the list here)

While The Weather Channel is going full-force with the naming of winter storms, the National Weather Service (the government agency behind weather warnings and advisories) has not gotten behind the movement yet.

Here’s where we get into my “professional” opinion on the subject.

While I am not a trained professional, I consider myself a pretty well-educated “weather nerd”. Seeing The Weather Channel (a commercially-owned TV and online company) getting in the business of creating buzz for snow storms seems like a continuation of sensationalizing storms and storm coverage. We’ve all seen footage of someone from The Weather Channel standing in the middle of a storm, fighting the wind, rain, snow, and other hazardous conditions – totally blowing out of proportion how bad the storm really is for the sake of keeping people tuned in and raking in ratings and advertising money.

I am not suggesting winter storms are not dangerous. Blizzards and winter storms have the potential to create a whole bunch of potentially deadly hazards that people need to be aware of, however placing a name and “raising awareness” and making the storms more “social media friendly” seems to go above and beyond – and in most cases will likely raise unnecessary amounts of panic among the public. It already happens with news media using terms like “Snowmageddon” or “Snownami”, sending folks in a panic to clean grocery store shelves before a storm moves in.

It is good to warn of the potential so people are prepared, but I think this is going a little too far. What do you think?





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