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Spring Rubber

The Weather Channel decides to name winter storms similar to tropical storms

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http://www.weather.com/news/why-we-name-winter-storms-20121001

 

http://www.weather.com/news/winter-storm-names-20121001

 

At least tropical systems are named by a government agency (the National Hurricane Center), which provides standardization in the sense that all media outlets everywhere will refer to an individual storm by the same name.

 

Now The Weather Channel comes along and assigns itself with the authority to name winter storms. This is going to cause a ton of confusion and possibly even make TWC/NBC look silly. I'm assuming that these same names will be used on NBC Nightly News and MSNBC and possibly O&Os, so when random viewer John Doe tunes into NBC Nightly News or MSNBC, he's going to hear them going on and on about this "Winter Storm Gandolf" nonsense, but then when he flips over to CBS Evening News or CNN where there will be no mention of these silly names, he's gonna be like, "What the heck are they talking about over on NBC? Gandolf? Trojan? Rocky? Nobody else is using those stupid names!"

 

What exactly does TWC/NBC think they're doing here? Do they expect other networks to adopt their names in an effort to avoid confusing the public? IMO, it's not a media company's job to create storm names. If the National Weather Service doesn't want to do it, then nobody should do it. One media company (NBC) using these silly names while all of the other networks don't use the names is just stupid.

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Honestly, this is just another way for the Weather Channel to hype up more the winter storms and bring in the viewers. Giving a name to something like a storm makes them more personable and, therefore, it connects better to viewers so it feels like a bigger threat than it really is... At least, that's my opinion...

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The whole logic seems stupid and a desperate attempt for attention. Not to mention that there is no guarantee that the name will be used outside of NBC U properties and no guarantee that it will even benefit the public. Oh I can already see John Coleman throwing a hissy fit over this, he was very critical of what TWC became after he left and now this.

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It's exactly what the above two posters said, just a way to hype up winter storms to try to bring in as many viewers as they get for hurricanes that hit the U.S. I really miss The Weather Channel I once knew, but sadly that's never coming back.

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The whole idea is beyond stupid, but I'm diggin' the names!

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Maybe in addition to naming the storms, they should start designing spots to promote these storms. "Winter Storm Stan is brought to you by Xfinity from Comcast. Call 1-800-Xfinity" (NBC O&Os only).

 

At least you'll have someone to blame when your roof falls through from all the heavy snow.

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Here's a good blog from WITI meteorologist Justin Zollitsch.

 

 

It was inevitable. In today’s media world where some outlets try to sell the weather as opposed to forecast it, TV weather’s only super power, The Weather Channel, will now be naming winter storms. TWC states a few bullet points as to why this is a good unilateral decision.

  • 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.

While naming winter storms may have a few benefits, I strongly feel this will cause more confusion and misinformation than TWC knows, or cares to acknowledge. The main benefit left off the list is an increase in TV ratings since naming a storm almost allows it to take on its own persona. And that persona can be used as the enemy attacking the city in the weather story being told.

 

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.

 

TWC states it will name storms up to 3 days in advance. This leaves a huge window for the storm to fizzle or shift course. Once a storm is named it will be very difficult to “un-cry wolf” and inform the public there’s nothing to see here, please resume your normal business.

 

The third bullet point has already been touched on. Giving a storm a personality is like a shiny neon light that blinds you from reading the fine print below. We don’t need a dramatic telling of the forecast, just the facts. Let the viewers make a judgment call as to how to adjust their day when the storm arrives. At FOX6 our motto is “Be prepared, not scared”. It would seem hyping a storm with a name would be in direct conflict with this creed.

 

Next up is social media. Twitter and Facebook have become powerful tools in reaching the public in times of severe weather. This is especially true during hail, wind, and tornadic events when lead times are measured in minutes. Waiting around for a newscast simply doesn’t fit this schedule. But I fail to see the benefit of tweeting “Athena arrives at dawn with 6-10” of snow”. Couldn’t you shorten this to “Snowfall of 6-10” likely by daybreak”.

 

Finally, I am skeptical of the flexible criteria TWC has left for itself when it comes to deciding which storms should be named. With hurricanes and tropical storms there are strict guidelines the National Hurricane Center must follow. TWC it says they’ll name storms with “disruptive impacts”. Of course a storm will have a differing amount of disruptive impacts from region to region. 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”.

 

When it comes to winter storms, or any severe weather for that matter, the most accurate forecasts can get lost in the noise of the sensational headline. As informed viewers I am begging you, ignore the “oooos and ahhhhs” of the broadcast (which we try to leave out) and focus on the content. We will provide the when, where, what, and how much, which is far more valuable than who.

 

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The Weather Channel's own On-Camera Meteorologist Nick Walker once sang a children's educational song that had a lyric, "You want your weather straight up/and you don't want it in your face."

 

That was about 12 to 13 years ago when he made that video during his first years of employment with TWC. Now in 2012, The Weather Channel is anything but "straight up," and every bit of it is "in your face". Such a shame.

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Here's a good blog from WITI meteorologist Justin Zollitsch.

 

Justin, formerly of WBAY, may be aware of the practice started years ago by competitor WLUK. They used to name storms after communities [iIRC, usually the cities/towns where they hit hardest], but they now use people's names.

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