Off-the-wallBy Bob Spiwak

I’m writing this close to midnight Sunday after the Green Bay Packers lost a close game a few hours ago. The announcers shivered in their open booth at Lambeau Field. Days before the game, weather pundits ranging from the Weather Channel to local news predicted the second-coldest game in history at Green Bay. The temperature predictions varied, but the wind chill would be about 15 below zero.
All this came about in the calm between the storms — snowstorm “Hercules,” passing through town the day before and its sycophantic and evil follower, “Ion,” about to pounce with deep sub-zero temperatures and increased winds, worse than the first one.
It’s the names that intrigue me. I don’t remember and am too lazy to look up whose name preceded old Herc, but it began with a “g.” That is the way it’s done, neat, orderly alphanumeric nomenclature. Is it a government thing, like NOAA, or an invention by the Weather Channel? Its roots go far back before the Weather Channel existed, and in my lifetime when NOAA was simply The Weather Bureau.
We lived a mile from the North Jersey shore in the 1940s and hurricanes were common every fall, their windy displeasure varying from 40 to 100 miles per hour, with 60 being the velocity when the Coast Guard Station at Monmouth Beach changed the ocean-side flag from full gale to hurricane. In those early pre-television days the hurricanes had no names, at least not in my memory.
After five years in Montana in college and the U.S. Air Force, I returned to the old sod on the East Coast to a new phenomenon. The hurricanes now had names, all female. Donna was a killer storm, literally and the most memorably. I don’t remember the A, B or C women (just like a man!).
The other strange thing was codifying the local climate. It’s not widely publicized, but it gets hot back there. So much so that every summer, the New York Daily News or Life magazine would have a picture of someone frying an egg on the sidewalks of New York City, which was 40 miles from home.
In addition, the humidity was wretched. Mix 90 degrees with 80 percent humidity and it is not fun. To this end, a New York radio station came up with “The Discomfort Index.” This was tabulated by taking the average of temperature plus humidity and on some unknown scale assign a number. Sort of like wind chill factors in reverse.
But there was a hue and cry that the high numbers and discomfort indices made people feel worse than before the numbers indicated how miserable they were. Enough so that the index was changed to “Comfort Index.” Needless to say, another contingent argued reasonably that how could it be called “comfort” when it was so uncomfortable that if you waved your arms enough in the high humidity you could produce lather?
Before I left for Washington in 1960 the index had been changed to “Temperature/Humidity.” This apparently mollified the complainers on both sides. And at some point in the nascent beginnings of the Women’s Movement, there were enough complaints to change the hurricane identifiers from all women to alternate male and female names.
With all this in mind, with the paucity of snowfall this year, I feel we in the Methow have been severely overlooked. I think our snowfalls should have names and if so, we might be mentioned on the Weather Channel. The first fall was about 2 inches. It was a dopey surface for skiing and no grooming and I offer the name “Dopey” for that one. This led to further plagiarism of Walt Disney. Our second snowfall was less than an inch: how about “Sleepy?” If a bad storm should come it can be “Grumpy.” A snowfall of over 2 feet might well be known as “Snow White.” The possibilities are endless. A real blizzard we could call “Rambo.” I think I will consider that.
All I need now is a particularly obnoxious storm that I can call “Lycra.”