Those of us along the Eastern seaboard, as of this writing on Saturday night, are bracing for Hurricane Sandy.
For days, government officials and media have been hyping the storm to epic proportions. Sandy has one heck of a PR team behind it as it prepares to make landfall in the next 24-36 hours.
What interests me most is the name of the storm.
What’s In A Name?
While “Sandy” may be the official name of the storm, the weather event is actually much more. Two winter storms are set to merge with the Hurricane, causing countless media outlets to dub this a “Frankenstorm.”
The name invokes the worst-case, Alien Vs. Predator scenario. Things that should not combine are coming together.
Naming weather events is not a new thing. The practice dates back hundreds of years, in relation to hurricanes.
However, earlier this month, The Weather Channel announced it would begin naming winter storms, too. It was just a few years back when the Mid-Atlantic was pummeled with a trio of winter storms, somewhat snarkily (and hashtaggably) named Snowpocalypse, Snowmaggedon (aka Snowpacalyse2) and Snowdiculous.
Why is it useful to name storms?
1) Public Memory: If we all use the same name for a storm, we can remember it better. Are you more likely to remember “that big storm we had that one time” or “Frankenstorm!” (cue creepy background music)
1a) Social Media: We can now use the visual and audio clues to help us better use our social networks for information surrounding the storm. There may be an equally scary event coming to another part of the world, but if “our” potential disaster has a name, we can better filter our feeds.
2) Information Distribution: Just driving around town today, I heard about a dozen radio ads discussing how [Product X] could help you prepare and survive Sandy. Want to cut through advertising clutter? Be as topical as a tropical storm! By addressing what was going on TODAY, the ads caught my attention.
3) Description: When a creative name, like “Frankenstorm,” is used, it instantly elevates the storm above everything else, as noted above. Adding color can be risky, as some potentially scary words, like, say, FRANKENSTORM, may make people laugh. However, it also communicates the severity of the system.
Branding elements aside, this storm has been effectively hyped as a major event, with incredible capability for property damage…and worse.
The Weather Channel is predicting probably power outages across several states. The convergence of tropical rains with winter temperatures sounds frightening.
In short – the name has done it’s job, as Sandy is THE thing along the East Coast…even into Canada.
From what I can see, people are taking their preparations seriously, as grocery stores are running through their stock, gas stations have lines and news outlets are sending out safety tips.
If you’re in the zone, be smart and be safe. And hopefully we’ll laugh at how overhyped Sandy was.