I felt bad about the way I’d left things with Rita. The last time we talked, I found out that she’d taken a job at the Thief River Falls ____ Mart, a place she’d vowed to never enter, let alone work — under any condition.
Anyway, I was a little abrupt with her the last time we spoke, because she had in fact, taken a job at the aforementioned super-store, at least until after the holidays, and later on, I felt bad about being so judgmental, so I wanted to apologize. Besides, earlier in the day, I’d gotten a tweet from The Weather Channel telling me that Winter Storm Caesar was bearing down on the Northern Plains, and I was worried about her and J.L.
When I called her cell, J.L. answered. “Rita leaves her phone at home now when she goes to work,” he told me. “She was getting into too much trouble for making calls on the job.”
“That’s a shame,” I said, “especially with Caesar heading your way?”
“Caesar…you know about Caesar don’t you.”
“Sure,” he said, “the pizza guy.”
“No, not Little Caesar – Winter Storm Caesar.”
I then had to explain to J.L that The Weather Channel is now naming winter storms in much the same way North American hurricanes are named. No wimpy names for these storms either – if you haven’t been paying attention, prior to Caesar we’ve had Winter Storm Athena and Winter Storm Brutus. And Winter Storm Draco is next (I think that’s the Latin word for ‘dragon’)…yikes…these winter storm names are intended to scare the bejeezus out of you.
So the first time I heard of winter storm naming, I thought it was just exactly that – scare tactics designed to alarm the public. Damn that National Weather Service I said to myself. Then I found out that the NWS wasn’t behind this at all. In fact, it was The Weather Channel (TWC) – that stalwart bastion of cable distributed meteorological information. It seems that in order to make things easier for us online geeks, TWC came up with the idea of naming winter storms to help make them easier for us to track. They know that most of us are too consumed by our Twitter feed and our Facebook pages on our iPad or smart-phone to actually tune into a local weather broadcast to get the skinny on any upcoming disasters. Apparently notifying the general public that a blizzard is descending upon them from the northern reaches of Canada, and within 24 hours they may well be buried under 47 inches of snow, driven by blinding hurricane force winds is not dramatic enough content for the TWC.
From TWC website:
“The fact is, a storm with a name is easier to follow, which will mean fewer surprises and more preparation.”
To this I can only add an emphatic: Huh?
Let us begin our search for the Truth, by taking a quick look at the assigned names for the remaining winter storms this season:
Q (yes, just plain Q)
Zeus (My personal favorite – this one is destined to bury half of North American under a glacier)
Think about these names and what they imply when you hear them over the course of the next few weeks and months. Couple these threatening names with the fact that TWC embarked upon this winter storm naming program without consulting any other private or public weather forecasting organization and things begin to sound mighty fishy. This was evidenced by the fact that as the massive nor’easter, dubbed “Winter Storm Athena” threatened New England the National Weather Service issued a directive to all of its personnel to NOT use this name in any of its bulletins and broadcasts.
Now I know some of my more weather savvy readers will say, “ha, ha Trop, don’t you know they’ve been naming winter storms in Europe for the past fifty years?”
And I’ll say right back, “Yes, I know that o’ Weather Savvy Reader. But this isn’t Europe. We do things kinda different over here in the U. S. of A.”
Normally, I am not one to jump on every conspiracy theory bandwagon, but I think something is going on here with this storm naming business, and I don’t like it. Insurance companies are increasingly using the “named storm” clause in insurance policies for all kinds of things, including when new policies can be written and what damages are covered.
So a few years hence, when you’re speaking to your insurance agent regarding a claim you’d like to file, as on Friday of last, while on your way home from work in a blinding snowstorm, your classic 1953 Austin Healy roadster skidded off the roadway, cleanly shearing down to stumps, six poplar saplings and removing fifty yards of rail fencing, before both you and a piping hot cup of Starbucks cappuccino were propelled into the windscreen, doing calamitous damage to both classic vehicle, your dental work, and your finest Holland Cooper tweed jacket, don’t be surprised when your agent tells you:
“Tisk tisk. Sorry Dr. Gravestares, but I’m afraid you’re not covered.”
“Not covered,” you’ll retort, sitting bolt upright in your hospital bed.
“I’m afraid claims filed for accidents that occurred during Winter Storm Dracula are not covered under your policy. Good heavens man, didn’t you get the Tweet?”