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In Movies & TV Commentary

This year's snow storms will come complete with names, thanks to The Weather Channel.

Snow is on the way, and there's a name for it

There is a huge storm brewing, and it's not outside. Rather, it's between TV meteorologists.

The Weather Channel has announced its intentions to start naming winter storms, much like hurricanes carry names now.

In their reasoning behind making the move this season, the cable outlet made the following points:

  • Hurricanes and tropical storms have been given names since the 1940s.
  • 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.

"This is where a world-class organization such as The Weather Channel will play a significant role," The Weather Channel said in a statement. "We have the meteorological ability, support and technology to provide the same level of reporting for winter storms that we have done for years with tropical weather systems.

"In addition to providing information about significant winter storms by referring to them by name, the name itself will make communication and information sharing in the constantly expanding world of social media much easier. As an example, hash tagging a storm based on its name will provide a one-stop shop to exchange all of the latest information on the impending high-impact weather system."

The planned move has caused some blowback. One big reason is that when a hurricane or tropical storm is named, it is done by the World Meteorological Organization. The group maintains the list of Atlantic hurricanes and rotates it every six years. For storms originating in other bodies of water, the National Hurricane Center maintains the list and everyone else follows its lead.

"We have explored this issue for 20 years," said Dr. Joel N. Myers, the founder and president of AccuWeather, "and have found that this is not good science and importantly will actually mislead the public. Winter storms are very different from hurricanes."

Locally, meteorologist Justin Zollitsch of WITI-TV Fox 6 says that the move by The Weather Channel is a ratings strategy to create a persona for a storm.

"In Wisconsin we take winter storms and blizzards seriously. We do not need to say 'Athena' or 'Brutus is coming!' to catch your attention. For the few who need a fancy name to perk up and listen, they may let the name overshadow the critical DETAILS and IMPACTS of the storm – how much, how fast, what time ... you know, the useful information a name does not provide," Zollitsch wrote in his blog.

What will be interesting to watch is how the national cable station will handle smaller, regional storms. In the south, where they are rare, storms can be different than what we see here in Wisconsin, where different smaller snow showers seem to come and go all the time.

WLUK-TV, the Fox affiliate in the Green Bay market, has been naming storms for the past few years. Last season's list included Angela, Bob and Crystal. On a small, single-market scale, the names may work fine; however, when it crosses markets it may not be so simple.

"Of course a storm will have a differing amount of disruptive impacts from region to region," Zollitch wrote. "So let's look at an example. Winter storm 'Brutus' heads towards Chicago with 8-14" of heavy, wet snow. A major metropolitan area and travel hub will be significantly impacted. So national media outlets spend 3 days previewing Brutus's impacts on Chicago and touch on the fingerprint it will leave on Milwaukee which is only expecting 5-8" of light, fluffy snow. Not everyone will decipher the difference, all they'll hear is Brutus is coming to Milwaukee and Chicago.

"When the last snowflake falls and we are left with 7" in Racine, 6" in Milwaukee, and 5" in Port Washington, attaching Brutus to a modest storm will leave people skeptical of the next one. And when the next storm eyes up Milwaukee as its main target many will ignore the warnings thinking 'Brutus wasn't so bad.'"

WORKSHOP: The workshop for area actors I wrote about in June was postponed then when the featured presenter had to reschedule the date because of the death of a close friend. Well, the event has been rescheduled for Oct. 13, and is meant to help actors learn what works in casting calls to help book future gigs.

You can find the details on the event and listen to Rex Sikes' interview with casting director Paul Weber here.


quickened | Oct. 5, 2012 at 7:46 a.m. (report)

>>"This is where a world-class organization such as The Weather Channel will play a significant role," The Weather Channel said in a statement. This totally reads like something out of the onion. The weather channel isn't really justified in doing this. Myers nailed it when he stated "....and have found that this is not good science and importantly will actually mislead the public. Winter storms are very different from hurricanes." It's the weather channel sensationalizing a natural yearly event. It hits me like this idea was conjured up by someone who rarely sees snow and views anything over 2 inches as a reason to shut down a city. Shovel, drive slowly, move on. I would like to see more opposition to this ridiculous idea. What's next Thunder Storms? Surely they are more damaging than snow storms.

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