Hurricane Sandy: What’s in a name?

Hurricane Sandy is about to hit the east coast.  Many predict that this is going to be the biggest storm of the decade. Every time a storm is suspected to hit, people begin to panic. Hurricanes are a force of nature that humans cannot combat. While many universities across the east coast will be closed on for two days because of the storm, Syracuse University will maintain it’s regular schedule. While I am happy that Sandy is not going to hit Syracuse as hard as other places, I certainly would not complain if Syracuse University canceled classes for a day or two.

I think Sandy was misnamed. A hurricane’s name should sound more threatening and not share the same name as the main protagonist from the movie and musical Grease.

This idea made me wonder why all hurricanes have names.

As a public relations major I am aware how a brand, or name, is extremely important. Yet, while a hurricane is not an organization, product or a celebrity it can be extremely news worthy for a long period of time, making a name beneficial for those following the storm.

According to the history channel, storms used to be named for their time period, geographic location or intensity, for example the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 or the Big Blow of 1913. This approach became too unorganized so weatherman Clement Wragge began to name hurricanes in the 19th century. He assigned each storm to a letter from the Greek alphabet and characters from Greek and Roman mythology. Soon, however, he strayed from his original approach and named storms after politicians he disliked.

Of course, the naming hurricanes after politicians approach did not last. During World War II, meteorologists realized it was crucial to name storms in order to analyze weather maps and keep up with tracking. Many of the weathermen began naming the storms after their wives and girlfriends.

Soon after, the National Weather Service, then known as the National Weather Bureau, unofficial declared that all hurricanes would be named after women’s names. Many feminists did not appreciate hurricanes taking on women’s names. One feminist said “Women are not disasters, destroying life and communities and leaving a lasting and devastating effect.”

As history would have it, in 1979 the National Weather Service created an inventory of both men’s and women’s names which future storms would be based on. There is now a set list that cycles every six years, however deadly storms such as Katrina in 2005 are removed from the list.

This post shows From a PR standpoint, this shows how much impact a name can have. When thinking of an organizations name it is important to remain politically correct and keep all of one’s publics content.

That being said, the name Sandy takes on so many pop culture references, such as Sandra Dee from the musical and movie Grease, that it’s hard to think that the hurricane is going to be threatening and damaging.

(Pop culture reference. )

Now that I know the history of hurricanes I am ready to take on Hurricane Sandy!



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