Hurricane Sandy: ‘Frankenstorm,’ a government brainstorm


Haiti was flooded by Hurricane Sandy. (Carl Juste/Associated Press)

National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologist Jim Cisco realized a couple of things about Hurricane Sandy:

1) It was due to hit land along the Eastern seaboard just before Halloween;

2) It would gain strength and scariness as a tropical storm merging with a northeaster — “It represents the sum of multiple parts,” says Chris Vaccaro, a spokesman for the National Weather Service.

Those circumstances inspired Cisco to riff in an official NWS all-caps e-mail:

ONCE THE COMBINED GYRE MATERIALIZES, IT SHOULD SETTLE BACK TOWARD THE INTERIOR NORTHEAST THROUGH HALLOWEEN, INVITING PERHAPS A GHOULISH NICKNAME FOR THE CYCLONE ALONG THE LINES OF “FRANKENSTORM”, AN ALLUSION TO MARY SHELLEY’S GOTHIC CREATURE OF SYNTHESIZED ELEMENTS.

Many news organizations have gobbled up the clever moniker. Moments ago, at the start of Fox News’s “Studio B” with Shepard Smith, a banner read, “’Frankenstorm Looms.”

CNN, meanwhile, refuses to associate itself with the term. Too trivial for a storm that’s killing people, it says.

The Weather Service’s Vaccaro cautions against reading too much into the government coinage. “It was a one-word phrase that was offered considering the situation that the storm is developing. This is just one suggestion put forth by a forecaster and by no means an official decree,” he says, noting that the storm will retain the name of Sandy. “It was just the forecaster on duty” riffing on a casual name, says Vaccaro.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.

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