Beware Gandolf (and Nemo and Walda and … )
A bit of winter weather kept me off the bike for a week or so. Instead I lounged around on the sofa eating bonbons and pondering the imponderable.
At some point in said pondering, I puzzled my puzzler over The Weather Channel’s decision to begin naming “noteworthy” winter storms.
It was, I believe, Draco that (who?) dumped on us our first measurable snowfall in over a year, back on Dec. 20ish. The dusting we got just before winter break was unnamed.
Euclid tore up the South around Christmas, spinning up tornadoes.
Freyr — a Norse god associated with fair weather — was powdering the East as recently as Sunday.
Up next: Gandolf. (“YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!!”) (And, yes, I’m aware Gandalf with an A is a Hobbit’s best friend, but since this is purely an exercise in phonic fun, I, Ondrew, declare them one in the same.)
The Weather Channel — which should not be confused with a real scientific agency so much as “Entertainment Tonight” with isobars and dry-bulb hygrometers — assures it has begun naming winter storms for all sorts of good reasons.
“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.”
In other words, when Jim Cantore is standing out amid some thunder-snowpocalypse and The Twitter is all abuzz about #winterstormnemo, guess who gets mentioned as much as the storm itself? Yep, The Weather Channel.
It’s like corporate sponsorship, only cheaper.
Remember that when Winter Storm Triton Brought To You By TWC is howling around your door.
I guess I don’t have a problem with it. Truth is, it’s good marketing. Folks love talking about the weather (when it’s bad), and giving every “noteworthy” storm its own hashtag makes conversing about said storms with your thumbs that much easier. And, invariably, somebody is going to ask, “What the heck is a ‘Xerxes,’ or, ‘Since when did they start naming snow storms?’ And, of course, somebody will inform it was the Weather Channel’s idea, starting this year, and … voila: instant pub.
My only beef is the names.
I guess Brutus and Draco and Gandolf (The White, no doubt) and Jove, Saturn and Zeus are awesome enough to send folks into a batten-down-the-hatches-lay-in-the-stores-and-curl-up-with-the-dogs panic (and, coincidentally, drive up the TV ratings), but I’m not in the least bit afraid of Helen, Khan (Kirk totally put him in his place), Luna, Nemo, Q, Ukko, Walda or Yogi.
All of the aforementioned names, by the way, are on TWC’s list of sobriquets for this storm season.
The more that I think about it, however, the more opposed I become to the anthropomorphization of weather systems.
In addition to the ease with which we can dismiss certain names — I can’t help but wonder if Superstorm Sandy had been, say, Superstorm Gozer the Gozerian, maybe folks would have taken it (her?) more seriously — it can give some names a bad, well, name.
Maybe I’m taking it a bit too personally. After all, Andrew was one of the costliest (but not deadliest) hurricanes in the history of weather, and I feel I’m still lumped in with that meteorological bad boy more than two decades later.
I did collect a bunch of headlines — “Andrew bears down on coast” and “Residents flee ahead of Andrew” and “Andrew wreaks havoc” and “Dewey defeats Truman” — until I deemed it a bit morbidly narcissistic.
Maybe that’s why The Weather Channel went with all of the monikers from ancient Greece or Norse or Disney movie mythology.
I can’t imagine there are too many Iagos or Orkos walking the earth just counting the days until their winter-storm namesake makes buses plunge and cripples cities and wraps entire communities in its icy grip just so they can tack some tacky headline on their cubicle wall.