Pella Chronicle

CNHI/Southeast Iowa

October 2, 2012

Weather Channel plans to name blizzards

OTTUMWA — Sometime this winter, no one knows quite when, The Weather Channel is going to start talking about Blizzard Athena.

Hurricanes and tropical storms have long received names as easy ways to identify them. Andrew, Katrina and Camille have all become one-word synonyms for disaster. The Weather Channel believes a similar set of designations for blizzards will help people prepare.

The channel's website draws an explicit link between the "time and space scale" of tropical systems and winter storms. Thunderstorms and tornadoes are transient events that can form, strike and be gone within minutes. A winter storm can form for days and then take its time moving across the nation.

There will be differences between the naming of blizzards and tropical systems. According to the National Hurricane Center, a system in the Atlantic Ocean becomes a tropical storm when it has a closed circulation and winds of at least 39 mph. It reaches hurricane status when winds hit 74 mph.

There is no analogous organization for winter storms, and the naming of blizzards by the Weather Channel will not have such clear-cut requirements. Variables like the disruptive potential of the storm, the population in the storm's path, the time of day and even the day of the week will all matter.

That means a storm that drops a foot of snow over rural Montana might not get a name. But a storm that drops only a few inches of snow over a major city during Monday evening's rush hour might.

You can see a list of the planned blizzard names by clicking here.

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