Everything has a name - even a blizzard

  • Article by: WARREN WOLFE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 3, 2012 - 1:11 PM

Sure, naming winter storms may be fun. But will people stay off the roads or will they have a sudden hankering for ice cream?

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Residents dig out from the Halloween Blizzard of 1991. Now the Weather Channel will be naming winter storms just like they do hurricanes and tropical storms.

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There was Minnesota's famous Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940, and the Halloween Blizzard of 1991. But blizzards called Athena, Brutus and Caesar?

Those will be the first three names out of the chute from forecasters this winter when the Weather Channel begins naming major winter storms, as the National Weather Service has since 1953 for tropical storms and hurricanes.

"Is it a good idea? If having a name gets people off the roads when there's a big snowstorm whipping through, then it's a good idea," said forecaster Jake Beitlich at the National Weather Service office in Chanhassen, where officials haven't decided whether to adopt the Weather Channel names. "At least it can be kind of fun."

But the news this week seemed to flabbergast officials at Minneapolis-based Dairy Queen.

"Caesar? That's a great name for a salad, but a blizzard?" said an incredulous Dean Peters, spokesman for the company that just happens to sell Blizzard ice cream concoctions.

"How about Hawaiian Blizzard or Candy Cane Chill -- you know, 'Warning: Blizzard Candy Cane Chill is headed for the Twin Cities!' "

The Weather Channel will name blizzards -- which require winds of at least 35 miles per hour and visibility of no more than a quarter-mile from falling or blowing snow -- but also other major snow or ice storms, maybe a total of eight or 10 a year.

While this will be the first time a national organization puts names on winter storms, locals have done that around the country for years.

"Is the Weather Channel trying to steal our thunder, so to speak?" wondered Matt Cory, managing editor of the Grand Forks Herald. The paper has named winter storms in the Red River Valley since 1989, usually after local newsmakers or sports heroes.

In Minneapolis, public works winter director Mike Kennedy is about to start his fifth season of naming winter snows after city streets. Next on his list will be Arlington, Barton and Chicago.

"We do it partly to track our performance clearing the streets -- easier with a name -- but mainly because we have fun with it," Kennedy said. "It's probably like that for the Weather Channel, too.

"I mean, weather forecasters and snow plow drivers, right? Whenever people think of us, they always say, 'Hey, what a fun bunch of guys.' "

Warren Wolfe • 612-673-7253

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