Perhaps no one told Gov. Chris Christie, whose office used it twice in this press release on New Jersey’s snow-related state of emergency.
Perhaps no one told Southwest Airlines, which used it in a travel-disruption notice.
Perhaps no one told the Environmental Protection Agency, which used its hashtag in a tweet.
“It” is “Winter Storm Juno,” a product plug for the Weather Channel. A few winters back, the network came up with the idea of doing for blizzards what the weather world had long done for hurricanes. Since then, the move has met with a mixture of indifference (the National Weather Service told its people not to use the names, as did the New York Times), scorn (Gawker called it a “brilliant, near-zero-budget advertising campaign that uses you as their mouthpiece”) and massive traction on social media and the Internet.
“We’re really happy with where we are with that,” says Nora Zimmett, the Weather Channel’s senior vice president of live programming. Zimmett referenced Christie’s invocation of the nickname plus the media’s widespread adoption: “A ton of news organizations are using it,” says Zimmett.
Bryan Norcross, the channel’s hurricane ace, compiles the list and has said, “It’s simply easier to communicate about a complex storm if it has a name, which our naming program has demonstrated. Good communications benefits everyone.”
The Weather Channel, based in Atlanta, has a veritable infrastructure built around what may someday stand as the most successful and enduring search-engine gimmick of all time. As the network itself explains it, three killer meteorologists make the decision on whether to name or not to name a storm. That committee consists of top Weather Channel talents Tom Niziol, Stu Ostro and and Jonathan Erdman. “It is important to note that the decision to name a storm is solely held by this committee of meteorologists,” reads an unreal line from an article titled, “The Science Behind Naming Winter Storms at The Weather Channel.”
Here’s the list of 2014-15 winter storm names, which, in addition to Juno, includes Astro, Kari, Remus and many others.
On the more substantive front, the Weather Channel on Sunday sustained a critical cold front from Mediaite columnist Joe Concha, who flicked on his TV on Sunday to find no live coverage of the then-impending storm. “I kinda expected to not see taped programming about…plane crashes,” wrote Concha. “And as of 5:00 PM, it still all about planes and not low pressure systems. Seriously…is anyone outside of a tape operator working today?”
Asked about such pre-storm programming decisions, Zimmett noted that the channel put on live coverage starting at 7 p.m. Sunday evening — and had such coverage as well on Sunday morning. The storm hadn’t started on Sunday, however, and Zimmett says the Weather Channel has made a strategic decision to play a longer game — instead of front-ending too much coverage, it wants to keep the live coverage churning on the back end, to detail the storm’s impact on people. On Monday morning, the Weather Channel started around-the-clock live coverage that could last through Wednesday and maybe beyond, says Zimmett.
Last fall the Weather Channel laid off about 40 workers, a scaling-back that Zimmett played down in terms of its impact on blizzard coverage. “I think all of TV right now is about making choices…I’m super happy with he way we deployed,” she says, noting that 10 reporters were spread along the storm’s footprint. The layoffs, she says, “certainly didn’t hurt our ability to forecast the event or our ability to bring it live.”
In an interview last night, Zimmett foresaw the great mystery of this winter storm. New York City, that is. Mayor Bill de Blasio girded his constituents for a historic event, but the city may end up with merely 12 inches or so — not enough, in retrospect, to have justified the pre-storm measures, which included ordering drivers off the roads. “All the models are in disagreement this late in the game,” Zimmett said yesterday evening, mentioning that one model predicted as few as 2 to 4 inches, another predicted 30 inches and others were in between. “We have been careful to let people in New York City know that they should plan for the worst part of a blizzard and it could be on the other end,” said Zimmett last night.