Even winter storms can’t escape the type of branding that’s ready-made for Twitter.
There was Hercules. And now Ion. Before that came Atlas and Boreas.
Whatever happened to old-fashioned blizzards? Who makes this stuff up?
Turns out, the Weather Channel. The weather conglomerate has taken it upon itself to issue a series of mostly Greek names to the type of winter storms that barrel across the nation.
So it came to pass that Hercules, son of Zeus, brought icy temperatures that rendered snow impervious to salt and allowed children to stay home.
It also brought a gorgeous, crisp-cold winter day Friday with bluebird skies and bright sunlight. Hercules just didn’t seem quite right.
“Way overstated,” said Molly Ullrich, a teacher who had the day off.
Katie Diebold, a social worker in Buffalo, was similarly amused by references to Greek gods.
“I grew up in Buffalo, and this is actually the first winter in a while that feels like what it was like when I was a child,” said Diebold, bundled in winter gear while out for a walk Friday.
The Weather Channel, in explaining its decision to begin naming storms, pointed to social media and the hashtags used as search tools.
Naming a storm, it contends, enables “simpler and more focused communications around forecasts and preparedness information,” according to a statement by the Weather Channel’s storm specialist, Bryan Norcross.
That may be, if the storm names were widely accepted and used throughout meteorological organizations, as hurricane names are maintained by the World Meteorological Organization.
But it’s awfully hard not to see the Weather Channel’s efforts to name winter storms as just another way to market and monetize storm coverage. My guess is executives at the channel saw the online traffic that emerged from 2010’s Twitter-named “Snowmageddon” on the East Coast and thought, “Why didn’t we think of that?”
The Weather Channel’s competitors said they, too, weighed the idea, but decided it was just bad science.
“It’s not like a hurricane,” said Marshall Moss, vice president of forecasting operations at AccuWeather. “A hurricane is a trackable entity that you see where it is, you see where it’s going. With a winter storm, it’s very different. There could be two or three different storm centers.”
Sure, we’ve always had names for storms in Buffalo, but they’re the type of spontaneous nicknames that come with an unusual event. The Blizzard of ’77. The October Surprise.
They’re the stuff of legends, the type of storms that brand a mayor “Jimmy Six-Pack,” spawn lyrics to songs and make the rest of the country think we live in an Arctic freezer.
But the storms that wreak the most havoc in Western New York – those localized bands of lake-effect snow – aren’t likely to get the names doled out by the Weather Channel. They’re too local, too isolated to meet the criteria.
“Your worst events are never going to be warned for in the same way,” Moss said.
It’s just as well. We’re Buffalo, after all. We don’t need fancy nicknames to describe snow, ice and cold. We just need good, reliable weather warnings.
The rest of the country can have their godlike snowstorm names. Here, in Buffalo, we can stick to calling it winter.
We don’t need fancy nicknames to describe snow, ice and cold.