Weather worlds clash over naming winter storms

Controversy on naming winter storms

A new idea is circulating amongst meteorologists, whether to name winter storms. The Weather Channel has started the trend, already naming two this winter season; however, national government agencies are refusing to follow the idea.  On Wednesday, the National Weather Service instructed its employees not to use the naming convention.

A primary reason media and government companies are abstaining from jumping on the name-train is the fact that The Weather Channel has not specified what will qualify a winter storm to receive a name.  Another reason is the shear difficulty that comes with winter storm forecasting.  Winter storms can move very fast, have more than one center and can vary in intensity from location to location.

"It's not like a tropical storm that has all of its intense wind at the center of the system.  Winds and effects from a winter storm can be very far reaching and different," said Meteorologist-in-Charge Richard Bandy of the National Weather Service office in Morehead City.

Bandy says the primary reason for naming tropical storms is to increase communication as systems spend days tracking across the Atlantic Basin.

Spokespeople with The Weather Channel say they hope by naming winter storms, they can encourage awareness and preparedness. Winter storm names will be assigned alphabetically. "Athena" has already been assigned to the strong nor'easter that slammed New York just a week after Superstorm Sandy. "Brutus" has been given to a new strong low pressure storm moving into the Pacific Northwest which is forecasted to bring blizzards.

Local insurance companies commented on the change due to the practice of some charging higher deductibles when a named storm causes damage.

"We use the National Weather Service and our own private forecasters to give us the weather, so no, it wouldn't change anything," said Kevin Wagner, insurance agent and President of Lawson-Wagner Insurance and Financial Agency in Jacksonville.

The only impact it could have, Wagner says, is an upper-hand on communicating with clients.  If clients were to mention damage from say, a winter storm named "Susan" or "Nemo," it would be easier for insurance agents to nail down exact dates.

"If we have to deal with a winter storm, it might as well be named, at least it might make having one a little bit more fun," said Wagner.

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