Names only needed for hurricanes

Published 2:34 pm Thursday, January 30, 2014

Deep in the depths of the Louisiana bayou, someone is still cursing a wretched woman named Katrina, who ruined their home and livelihood in 2005.

Today, someone in the middle of Birmingham’s metro area is equally mad at a man named Leon.

For years, hurricanes have been named based on a list developed by the World Meteorological Organization. The names are assigned in alphabetical order as the storms are discovered. Names can be repeated after six years, but the names of particularly severe storms aren’t used again. For example, Katrina was retired in 2005. Gustav was retired in 2008 and Sandy was retired in 2012.

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In 2012, we began seeing names like Athena, Iago, Q and Magnus. In 2013, the names were equally as strange, with storms named Boreas, Falco and Janus. The names are an attempt by The Weather Channel to make it easier to follow winter weather, according to its website

Winter storm Leon was the name of the recent snowstorm that left dozens stranded on state highways and thousands of children stuck in school overnight.

The names sound more like mythical Greek characters than names of storms. They don’t roll off the tip of my tongue as easily as Andrew or Ike, but at least the winter storms have interesting names. Names like Leon and Falco are certainly easy to remember.

I don’t mean to lessen the impact of the storm or make light of the situation. It’s hardly fair to compare the affect of a winter storm with a tropical system. They are totally different in their effects.

But other than making a winter storm memorable, there is no reason to name a winter storm and the criteria for being named is hardly defined.

The National Hurricane Center has strict criteria for naming a tropical system. A winter storm has none.

The National Hurricane Center tracks storms for several weeks before deciding on a name. Meanwhile, The Weather Channel names a storm whenever it wants.

Winter storms often only affect an area for a day or two. Hurricanes and tropical storms have a prolonged effect over a large swath of land.

I went to sleep on Monday prepared for a winter storm. I woke up on Tuesday and was told that some man named Leon was going to drop snow on Central Alabama.

For a second, I was upset.

Why would a person want to commit such a heinous act in a place that hardly, if ever, has to deal with severe winter weather?

Then I discovered The Weather Channel had decided to name the system. Just a few hours earlier, it didn’t have a name. Some news agencies picked up the name, using it to refer to our recent winter weather, but most didn’t and they shouldn’t.

Leon isn’t an official name by a government agency. It’s just a television channel looking to gain recognition and have people refer to storm by its creation.

Refer to the recent winter weather however you like, but know that I won’t be referring to it as Leon.