Winter Storm Janus: Storm naming with your family

Winter Storm Janus, named by The Weather Channel, sparked complaints from one mom's son about its weak sound, which in turn sparked a teachable moment:  How a name like 'Janus' could pack a powerful punch, when you take the time to learn its origins.

Dave Schwarz/The St. Cloud Times/AP
Winter Storm Janus has nothing on the big winter storms in the middle of the US. In this photo, Walter Berg cleans about six inches of new-fallen snow from his driveway in St. Cloud, Minn., on Jan. 18.

The Weather Channel sent out an alert yesterday that the latest winter storm will be named ‘Janus,’ leaving some kids wondering about the difference in naming systems for various storm types and the messages those names are trying to convey.

Hurricanes are named after people, while The Weather Channel has seemed to have taken a more scenic route in devising names. 

Either way my son, Quin, 10, surprised me by being totally aggravated with the choice, not because it wasn’t his name, but because he wished storms were named to more accurately reflect their regional intensity level.

“Janus? What is happening here?” he fumed. We live in Norfolk, Va., where snow in anything more than a fleeting dusting hasn’t been seen in years. “How can you tell what kind of storm it’s going to be by that name?”

Kids here in the South have seen storm after storm in this polar vortex that utterly failed to provide more than a drenching rain here.

After being part of the 2013 “Nature’s Fury” challenge with his FIRST LEGO League team, Quin has come to the conclusion that the names of the storms should play a more accurate role in order to more effectively warn people.

What might be a titan in New Jersey is more of a Smurf in southern Virginia.

“They need to stop naming them after people and get serious,” Quin said. “Call it Frost Eclipse or Whiplash.”

Sadly, The Weather Channel thought it was doing just that by naming winter storms differently with the help of a Latin class at Bozeman High School in Bozeman, Mont. 

To those with a working knowledge of Greek mythology, the names are pretty awesome, including: Atlas, Elektra, Maximus and Zeus amid names such as Leon, Pax (Latin word for peace), Seneca, and Kronos.

This became a teachable moment at our house. I pulled out a gorgeously illustrated book on Greek mythology he was given for Christmas by his older brother to help him relate to the names. For starters, I explained that the name Kronos refers to the father of Zeus in Greek mythology or Saturn in Roman.

Quin looked at me as if I had completely missed the point saying “OK, that’s cool, but storm names should be something people see and know right away if they should panic.”

Quin continued to work out his kid-friendly storm warning system that wouldn’t be Greek to anyone his age.

For less mighty storms he suggests, “Chilly Kitten,” for electrical storms “Picachu” (named after an electric Pokemon) so kids will know not to expect a snow day or to watch out for lightning.

 I always fretted when hurricanes were named thinking that if one of my sons’ names was picked, and it turned out to be wimpy, that son would get mocked.

Conversely, if the storm did brutal damage, would I have to change the child’s name to save him from eternal abuse?

I have met two adult Katrinas who wish that storm had been given any other name.

However, Quin points out that a tough storm bearing their name could be a gift.

“Let’s say a kid is always bullied,” said Quin. “Then along comes a monster storm with his name. It’s like, ‘Hey, don’t mess with that kid!’ ”

NASA has a great website for kids that lets your child check to see if a storm has ever borne his or her name.

If we’re going with a family-friendly naming system, then I would include: Hurricane Dad, White Tornado Mom, and Winter Storm Grandma/Grandpa.

Of course the ultimate storm moniker would be “Who Did This?” Then everyone would know they were in big touble.

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