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Critics Wince as Weather Channel Pumps Up 'Nemo' — and Anticipates 'Orko'

Posted by Dale Buss on February 11, 2013 03:54 PM

In naming storms other than hurricanes, The Weather Channel may have created an irresistible juggernaut, much like one of those giant Nor'easters to which the TV channel has been attaching monikers for several months now.

Even General Motors' OnStar service joined some large media outlets like The New York Post (right) in using the name "Nemo" for Friday's storm, reminding customers that its advisors were poised to assist subscribers who ran into weather-related emergencies during "Winter Storm Nemo." New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg started calling the storm "Nemo," too.

Such lurches down slippery slopes have added to the apparent critical mass behind The Weather Channel's efforts to institutionalize the Greek and Roman names that it selected for a handful of giant storms over the last several months. Channel executives assert that having a storm handle available makes it much easier for weather authorities and the general public to glean the best information and take appropriate cautions before and during a storm.

For decades, the National Weather Service has named hurricanes and other well-defined, potentially deadly storms  — like Isaac and Sandy — in a commercial-free vacuum where no one could profit from the sort of brand presence that arises around spectacular weather events. (NWS officials did not adopt Nemo even as many on hashtag-happy Twitter picked it up. In resisting the overall move by The Weather Channel, NWS officials cite the fact that impact of many winter storms can vary from one location to another, making it difficult to define where one ends and another begins, according to BusinessWeek.

Naming storms might benefit the Weather Channel's brand if its winter-storm naming system catches on, but AccuWeather, one of the network's biggest competitors, is quick to denounce the system as dangerous folly. 

"This is not good science and will mislead the public," an executive told the Los Angeles Times. "Winter storms are very different from hurricanes."

Some backlash against the move has surfaced as notable storms have hit the East Coast. A Facebook page imploring The Weather Channel to resist its naming tendency has formed, though it only had a few hundred likes by Monday afternoon. 

Despite NWS officially discounting the name-that-storm idea for now, Weather Channel executives told Businessweek that they're making progress in getting officials there to consider adopting its naming scheme. "Their mind," said Bryan Norcross, a hurricane specalist with the channel, "is open."


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