Winter Storm Nemo 2013: Why Naming a Storm Can Be Dangerous


In humor exists forms of power, comfort, and familiarity. Thanks to social media, these things can go viral within a matter of seconds. But, there is a place and time for everything.

Is the memes/hashtagging culture of our generation recklessly making light of serious weather events, such as the current snowstorm barreling through the east coast, or does the culture of hyper-sharing provide information in an accessible manner?

Winter Storm Nemo has already found its way to the Northeast. The Weather Channel states the storm has Greek and Latin roots, meaning “from the valley” and “nobody.” Regardless, major news outlets such as the New York Times seem to be avoiding making Nemo a household name through its absence on headlines. The Guardian, clearly dictates on their website, “This is a name best reserved for an animated fish and an adventurer in a Jules Verne novel, not a serious winter storm.”

In a New York Times piece criticizing the name choice, Weather Channel meteorologist Byran Norcross said, “The fact is that Twitter needs a hashtag.”

A brief scan of Twitter reveals these results — a sea of jokes with fewer resourceful tweets among the fray.


On Statigram, the online version of the popular Instagram app, also appears to have its share fair of humorous visual experiences in preparation and wait of the storm.


Marketing ploy or not, most people only innocuously appear to want to use Nemo as a springboard for fun talk and social bonding. But are they also forgetting that the proverbially named winter storm is coming and once again will be impacting post-Sandy areas? Areas that still in the process of rebuilding after the severe damage of the hurricane? The very same hurricane in which lives were indeed lost?

Before the hurricane devastated areas in New York City, Long Island, and the Jersey Shore, there was a story debating which pop culture face ought to be Hurricane Sandy’s icon. The first face that came to mind was that of Oliva Newton-John for her classic Grease role, but I digress. A slew of memes surfaced, which now feel inappropriate:

In addition, anxiety bandwagoning found its niche during #Instacane when terrifying but fake photos from movies circulated the web as truth. The full onslaught of Nemo has yet to be felt, but from ongoing weather predictions, the areas reported that will be affected have a long haul ahead.

While naming Nemo makes the storm easier to follow, the frivolity of its pop culture origins still seems to be more than enough to turn off big name journalism organizations who are all about storm prep, updates, and safety — now isn’t that saying something?