Political Animal


February 09, 2013 9:16 AM Naming Nemo

By Adele Stan

Good morning, Animals!

So good to be back with you, if only for a day, to once again examine the peculiar politics of our time — which these days includes atmospherics both figurative and literal.

On the literal side, you may have heard something about snow, seeing as how the Center of the Universe — the northeastern United States — is buried under the white stuff. In an apparent attempt to usurp the authority of the National Hurricane Center in the storm-naming business, The Weather Channel took it upon itself to name last night’s giant snowstorm “Nemo,” prompting all manner of consternation among meteorologists. Only hurricanes, it seems, are routinely given names, a duty entrusted to public servants.

With the The Weather Channel’s Nemo gambit, one might wonder whether the next move will be the selling of naming rights for “weather events.” (How many parents are today entertaining snowbound children with private viewings of Disney’s “Finding Nemo”?)

Barring the prospect of storm-naming product-placement, the channel’s baptism of the snowstorm was nonetheless commercially driven. As Alana Semuels of the Los Angeles Times explains:

The Weather Channel decided to start naming storms after it coined a 2011 event Snowtober, a name that got picked up on Twitter and in media outlets and drew more viewers to the site. The channel decided that naming a storm was helpful for those following the storm on social media, and also helped viewers keep track of weather events, said Brian Norcross, senior executive director of weather content and presentation at the Weather Channel.
“We know that when a tropical system is named, people pay more attention,” he said in an interview. “They go out and figure out what is going on — what does it mean to them.”

So, Animals, feel free, in the comments thread to suggest your own names for last night’s storm.

In the meantime, here’s an iconic Billie Holiday recording about a snowstorm. Just watch those icicles form…


  • Mudge on February 09, 2013 10:15 AM:

    So, "We know that when a tropical system is named, people pay more attention"..

    Maybe we should name Presidential races.

  • Adele Stan on February 09, 2013 10:30 AM:

    So what would you have named 2012, Mudge?

  • c u n d gulag on February 09, 2013 10:38 AM:

    Welcome back, Adele!

    In my part of Upstate NY, we got about 18 inches, so we were spared the worst of this latest Snowmageddon.

    My favorite moment on the Weather Channel recently, besides the usual team of doofuses that they hire to duck flying debris outside during hurricanes to tell us that there are strong winds blowing (DUH!), came very early on Wednesday morning, when I turned to it to see what was what with the storms.
    Their Chief Meteorologist came on, and showed something like a dozen projections of the storm - they ranged from 0 to 30 inches.

    I sh*t thee not, my fellow Animals - since you're all my favorite turds - the man came on and said 0 to 30 inches!
    Not a foot to two feet.
    Not 5 to 15 inches.
    Not, "Tune in later, since we don't clearly have a feckin' clue right now."
    No, the man came on and said, "0 to 30 inches!"

    Kind of a wide range there, ain't it Bubba?

    And he looked kind of proud, no less!
    I'm thinkin', "Ya know, I'll bet the Farmers Almanac has a better clue than you do."

    And yeah, I can see product placements coming soon:
    "This 'Best Western' storm is blowing in from the direction that their great and inexpensive rooms with a Northern view of have. So Katy, bar the door and board up those windows! That wind'll be rushing in like 'Best Western's' lodgers comin' in for their free hot breakfast's, and 5 to 7 Happy Hour!"

    "We've got a 'Northwood Casino' Easterly blowing up the coast, so don't take chances and gamble on hitting the road anytime soon..."

    "See that spiral in that 'Tidy Bowl' storm? That means... no Crystal Clear BLUE skies for you on the East coast - har-dee-har-har!"

    "We're naming this storm, 'Epicac,' because you'll be sick to your stomach of hearing about it for the next week."

    I'd go on, but I'm sure folks can do better than that.

  • c u n d gulag on February 09, 2013 10:46 AM:

    Well, looking at the Republican ticket, "Sh*t-storm" comes to mind.

  • rrk1 on February 09, 2013 10:54 AM:

    We have had probably about a foot of snow off-shore in Mass., so far. The drifting has been bad, and it's hard to know exactly how much has fallen.

    When I heard that the storm was 'named', regardless of the name, red flags went up because many of us in New England have insurance policies with a special clause that raises our deductible to 5% of the value of the house when damage is caused by a NAMED STORM. The clause doesn't specify who does the naming. This is worrisome, and something I intend to check with the insurance company. Naming should only be respected when done by the National Weather Service, not the parasites at the very commercial Weather Channel.

    Could it be that the insurance industry put them up to it just to screw homeowners some more?

  • Ronald on February 09, 2013 11:00 AM:

    Part of the problem is that if everybody is overreacting to every 'named' storm, it becomes the 'boy crying wolf' effect and not enough people pay attention to the serious storms.

    OK. So this was a bad snowstorm (I'm in Upstate NY like c u)- The northeast got hit with two snowstorms at the same time. It is winter in the Northern US. :)

    Climate change has made more 'extreme' weather more and more likely. How many 'storms of the Century' have we already seen in the last decade or so?

    My name for the 2012 circus?


    Helluva job, y'all.

  • Adele Stan on February 09, 2013 11:25 AM:

    Very interesting issue, rrk1, regarding insurance policies, deductibles and named storms. Given the Nemo trend, rip for litigation, it seem.

    LoL, c u n d gulag, "0 to 30" prediction. Well, you can't say he got it wrong!

    Ronald -- a great listicle would be a compilation of all the "storms of the century" that have taken place in the last five years.

  • emjayay on February 09, 2013 11:32 AM:


  • biggerbox on February 09, 2013 12:10 PM:

    I don't really care if Weather Channel wants to start naming events, but I do care if they pick stupid names. What kind of name is "Nemo" for a blizzard? Because the currently most famous Nemo was a little fish, and the one before was Jules Verne's mad genius submarine captain, which would make Nemo a better name for a flood or tsunami, not a blizzard.

    What's next, a heat wave named Mulan?

  • mellowjohn on February 09, 2013 12:17 PM:

    the Dairy Queen(R) Blizzard?

  • mudwall jackson on February 09, 2013 12:39 PM:

    what storm? i live in florida.

    and this:

    Weather Channel's winter storm names give some a chill
    Some homeowners worry about the practice triggering named-storm deductibles, but exec says no
    November 09, 2012|By Rob Manker, Chicago Tribune reporter

    You can add the nation's insurers to those not formally observing The Weather Channel's plan to name winter storms, one industry executive said.

    Some property insurance policies carry named-storm clauses, which can mean a higher deductible for damage caused by such a storm. In exchange, the policyholder typically pays lower premium amounts.

    After The Weather Channel this week christened an East Coast snowstorm Winter Storm Athena, some people feared such names could trigger higher deductibles for homeowners first walloped by superstorm Sandy's winds, rains and floods and then by the nor'easter's wind and snow. Could a cable network's decision to name a storm really end up costing people money in damage claims?

    Not so, said Chris Hackett, director of personal lines policy at the Chicago-based Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.

    "The vast majority of the (clauses) that I've looked at require that the storm be named by the National Weather Service or the National Hurricane Center and make no reference to storms named by The Weather Channel," Hackett said.

    "A lot of the (clauses) define named storms as including hurricanes, tropical depressions and tropical storms," Hackett said. "Obviously, there's no mention of winter storms in the (clauses) I've been seeing."

    in florida, a named storm means something specific, an organized tropical cyclonic system greater than a depression. in other words a tropical storm or hurricane. the outrage that would ensue if insurers were to start charging higher deductibles based on some random organization's decision to name a storm, winter (yes, they do make their way here) or otherwise, would be in the cat 5 range.

  • Michael W on February 09, 2013 12:47 PM:

    Adele, there are those who would dispute your calling the NE United States the "center of the universe". There is a little Bohemian neighborhood in Seattle, called Fremont, that has already declared itself "The Center of the Known Universe". They even have a sign erected stating that fact.

    The Center of the Known Universe sign

  • oldswede on February 09, 2013 1:52 PM:

    Other media have other ideas:
    What's in a name? Nemo or Charlotte, the snow must go on
    Charlotte seems to be what most news outlets are calling the storm here in Connecticut.

  • jward23 on February 09, 2013 1:53 PM:

    NO,no. Everybody in Canada knows that Toronto is COTU, just read a newspaper published there. And don't dare say that you don't give a toss about the NHL Maple Leafs.

  • Tom W on February 09, 2013 4:40 PM:

    You and I like good music!

  • exlibra on February 09, 2013 7:52 PM:

    (How many parents are today entertaining snowbound children with private viewings of Disney’s “Finding Nemo”?) -- Adele Stan

    Probably fewer than might have otherwise:

  • Wayne on February 10, 2013 2:53 PM:

    Channel 3 out of Hartford, Ct started naming snow storms a couple of years ago. Which turned into a big joke because they named this storm Charlotte or something like that.

    To me this will always be called Blizzard of '13.

    What's next, naming fog? How about fog bank Fred? Drizzle Dan? Warren Wind? Maybe Heatwave Harry?