The Weather Channel announced yesterday they’d begin naming winter storms. The reasons were enumerated by TWC’s Tom Niziol, who was very helpful to me when I was starting out in Buffalo. He was an NWS forecaster, later Meteorologist-in-Charge. Few people know more about winter weather.
During the upcoming 2012-13 winter season The Weather Channel will name noteworthy winter storms. Our goal is to better communicate the threat and the timing of the significant impacts that accompany these events. The fact is, a storm with a name is easier to follow, which will mean fewer surprises and more preparation.
I call BS.
This is wholly a marketing move on the part of The Weather Channel, just as it is for WFSB. Channel 3 was already naming Connecticut’s storms when I got here 1984.
From a PR standpoint it’s probably good for The Weather Channel as it’s been for WFSB. For everyone else it will add confusion when we should be adding clarity.
Winter storms aren’t compact systems like hurricanes. Single storms can cover a few thousand miles over a period of days. More importantly these storms bring different weather to different places simultaneously.
Remember the “Storm of the Century” back in 1993? Some East Coast locations got creamed. Here in Connecticut its effect was significant, but significantly less. I was inundated by comments from viewers who felt it was hyped!
In reality our forecast was pretty good. The problem was this ‘named’ storm’s worst aspects were the only thing being reported by the national media! Folks who heard this locally couldn’t, or didn’t, differentiate.
And, of course, that’s what’s going to happen. TWC will talk about a vicious storm and scare people who needn’t be scared.
AccuWeather’s corporate account tweeted:
TWC Winter Storm Naming “Will Mislead Public”
I can’t disagree.
Nate Johnson, meteorologist from WRAL Raleigh, summed it up nicely:
In making this change unilaterally, The Weather Channel has essentially tossed effective risk communication out the window and their partners in the National Weather Service and other corners of the “weather community” under the bus. One of the tenets of good risk and emergency communication is that communicators speak with “one voice”. That doesn’t mean everyone says the same thing; rather, it means those involved should speak in harmony with others.
Maybe I’m overstating the problem? Maybe this is just sour grapes on my part? It’s tough to remove my emotions from the equation. In the words of my friend Ryan Hanrahan from Channel 30,
I think it’s silly and fun. I don’t think it does any harm.
I just want to know what happens when Channel 3 and The Weather Channel come up with different names for the same storm?