Athena is the name of the winter storm that is currently bringing slushiness to the Northeast. This new storm-lady has gotten some attention in the aftermath of Sandy, given Sandy's altogether extensive nastiness and damage left behind. The meteorologists have been alternatively soothing us (she won't be that bad!) and warning us to take precautions (because she could be bad, in some areas, given Sandy), and Mayor Bloomberg has urged people in areas prone to coastal flooding which may already have sustained damages to take special care and even evacuate. There have been flight delays and cancellations, so check with your airline before you go to the airport. Be careful on the roads out there, too! Philadelphia and eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, southeastern New York, and interior New England may be affected by the storm, which will last Wednesday afternoon through Thursday mid-day, according to the Weather Channel. "New York City and Boston will only see a mix of rain and wet snow at this point," they say. Nonetheless, emergency workers are said to be getting ready for her. Meanwhile, the steadfast Eric Holthaus of the Wall Street Journal reminds us, Athena is not Sandy, and "will be much smaller" (but there are still serious risks because of Sandy).
Expected impacts, per TWC:
Up to six inches of snowfall combined with winds gusting over 35 mph at times across portions of Eastern Pennsylvania and interior New Jersey, which is still undergoing extensive recovery efforts from Sandy. There is the outside chance of snowfall totals approaching the 10-inch range if precipitation changes over to snowfall earlier. The combination of snow, sleet and freezing rain is expected for Interior New England Wednesday evening and overnight.
NOAA adds that there may be damaging winds later today and tonight across Long Island, New York City, and coastal Connecticut, and strong winds today and tonight across the tri-state area, as well as coastal flooding.
Beyond any of the expected weather and preparations to make, however, there is also new nomenclature to attend to. Remember how the weather community was up in arms over the Weather Channel deciding it would just go ahead and start naming storms? "Local meteorologists just felt left out, answering with statements on how TWC should have consulted them," wrote our Rebecca Greenfield. What of the integrity of weather reporting? What if we're all calling storms different names, and no one knows what's up and what's down, what's wet and what's dry? Who made the Weather Channel the namer of all unnamed weather patterns? Hence, it's taken this long for Athena's name (which was floating around last week, as if adrift on the winds of a nor'easter, not quite catching hold) to make it into a popularized hashtag. And some people are peeved. The National Weather Service, for instance, "will not recognize this name," writes Jason Samenow of the Washington Post. NWS issued the following bulletin:
TWC HAS NAMED THE NOR'EASTER "ATHENA.." THE NWS DOES NOT USE NAME WINTER STORMS IN OUR PRODUCTS. PLEASE REFRAIN FROM USING THE TERM ATHENA IN ANY OF OUR PRODUCTS
The Weather Channel's Winter Storm Team, in return, takes this moment to explain again why they named Athena in a piece on their site today: "The main reason for naming the storm is due to additional post-Sandy impacts," they write. "With so many people still under recovery efforts -- even well inland -- the combination of heavy, wet snow and wind prompted the decision to name this storm. The decision to name was based on a trend in models toward a colder pattern with additional snowfall along the Northeast Coast." (Of course, even prior to Sandy, they were hankering to use the name Athena ... it just so happens that this seems to be perfect timing! Next up, "Brutus.")
But—can we stop weather infighting for a moment and say, Athena! Finally, we have a name worthy of a storm. Sandy, wasn't that just asking for trouble, meteorologists? How would you like it if that were your name? Athena, "goddess of wisdom, of household arts and crafts, of spinning and weaving, of textiles." Goddess of war! She also (according to mythology) invented the flute, the plough, and the ox-yoke, the horse bridle and the chariot. She is powerful, something we should respect in a storm, yet firm, yet musical, yet good at making stuff. Therefore, we hope, she will be gentle with us and leave just a trace of slush, perhaps a dose of cold air, maybe, if she insists, some rain, and then depart so we may enjoy a relatively mild rest of the week after Thursday. Come on, Athena, or whatever it is you want us to call you. Be cool. But not too cold.