Harvey H. Jackson: The odd way we name storms
Jan 23, 2013 | 2322 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I’m sorry, I guess my coastal bias is showing, but what is this naming storms that are not hurricanes?

For decades, the only storms that got named came during hurricane season. Now The Weather Channel, on its own, has taken to naming storms.

By whose authority, I’d like to know?

And the names?

Already, we are down the alphabet past “Gandolf,” which I thought some spelling-impaired-Lord of the Ring-geek at The Weather Channel meant to be “Gandalf,” but it turned out the geek was into 19th-century pseudo medieval fantasies and got it from there.

Then I looked farther down the list to “Q” and discovered that storm will be named “Q.” How’s that for originality?

Well, I have been naming winter storms for years.

Bet you have, too.

Down here in the lower South, where winter storms worth naming usually mean winter storms with snow and ice — cold rain just isn’t worth the mention — we remember winter storms by what we did or were doing when they hit, not with some silly tag like “Yogi” — The Weather Channel’s “Y” entry. Not the Bear or the Berra but, according to The Weather Channel, “people who do yoga.”

Wonder what they paid the consultant to come up with that?

I was living in Selma in 1948 when snow fell. Mama made snow ice cream, the first I remember having. So, of course, for me, it was the “Ice Cream Storm.”

Early in 1962, snow fell on Marion, where I was attending the military school to which my father “sent” me. To this day, I call that storm “the Black Belt Blizzard.”

Snow fell again late in 1963, when nature dropped 6-plus inches. I was in Meridian, Miss., picking up my brother who had been visiting family, when flakes the size of quarters started falling. By the time we got out to the highway, all you could see were the ruts left by someone who had blazed the trail for us.

Fortunately, I had driven our pickup that had mud-grip tires, so my first experience driving in the snow was not a disaster. From that time forward, this was the “Lord, Please Get Me Home” storm.

The next winter another storm hit — less snow but lower temperatures — and for the first time in my life, sitting in a Birmingham Huddle House, I watched the thermometer on the bank sign across the street drop to minus-something. It was the “Zero is Cold Enough For Me” storm.

Then there was December 1970. As I sat in front of my TV in Athens, Ga., watching Arizona State whup up on the University of North Carolina in Grant Field over in Atlanta, snow began to fall. Before the evening was done, the “Peach Bowl Snow and Ice Storm” had made history.

Despite the horrible weather revealed that night, I moved to the Atlanta area in 1973, and for the next few years we could count on a winter dusting from time to time, punctuated by an ice storm or two, which we called by names that cannot be repeated in a family paper.

Then came “Snow Jam” — 1982 — that brought metro Atlanta (and a lot of other metros) to a halt. My VW bus could not make it home, and I had to walk nearly a mile in ankle-deep slush. If the newspaper had not named it, this would have been the “Storm Of The Frozen Toes.”

Another snow in 1987 is remembered as the “Finding How To Stay Warm” storm for the way it kept folks inside and innovative.

But it was not until I returned to Alabama in 1990 that the most memorable of snow storms hit.

Early March 1993. We were living in Anniston and had recently brought our firstborn home from the hospital when snow began to fall. Big, wet flakes that stuck to the frozen ground, the frozen roads, the frozen trees, the frozen power lines — and us with a baby boy to keep warm.

The lights flickered but stayed on. We filled every container we could with water, but never used it. We brought in firewood, and though we kept a fire burning, it was not really needed for the heat never went off.

All around us, and in communities far and wide, people were without power and water.

We never even lost cable.

When the snow melted and things returned to normal, I knew what to call this one — “How Lucky Can You Get.”

Now we come to the latest, which The Weather Channel’s Shakespeare geek named “Iago.” About as good as “Q,” I guess.

Then I heard that when the precipitation started falling, our local Tea Party organization, the “Rainy Day Patriots,” cancelled its meeting due to the weather.

Maybe they should name this one the “How’s That For Irony” storm?

Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Eminent Scholar in History at Jacksonville State University and a columnist and editorial writer for The Star. Email: hjackson@jsu.edu.
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