The Weather Channel (TWC) announced Tuesday the names it will be using for the 2015–2016 winter storm season. There are 26 names, one for each letter of the alphabet. They are all derived from Latin or Greek, except for one. Do you see it?
That's right, the 25th winter storm this year—if we have 25 winter storms this year—will be called "Yolo" by TWC (but not by NOAA or the National Weather Service, which don't recognize the channel's names). In a video announcing the list, The Weather Channel's Sam Champion asks Tom Niziol to discuss the new names.
"We're coming up with a new set of winter storm names here… Again part of the project from the Bozeman High School Latin class. They brought these names to us," Niziol explained, continuing:
We begin with Ajax, you know that storm's going to clean up… we've got lots of others, some of my favorites: Goliath, we've got Regis over here… We don't have a Kathy Lee, but we have a Regis. And my favorite Bond actress by the way, Ursula Andress.
Niziol tries to move on, but Champion jumps in: "I was just looking at Yolo going, really, that's interesting, Yolo, You Only Live Once." Niziol responded, "And that's already hitting the social media network here… there are a lot of comments on that."
It would be easy to conclude, from this exchange, that Yolo was suggested by members of the Bozeman High School Latin class, ages 14–18. In a press release, the channel points out that the list was derived from a list of names supplied to TWC by Bozeman:
For a third year, the winter storm names for 2015-2016 are derived from lists created by students from Miss Shupe’s Latin Club at Bozeman High School in Bozeman, MT. The names are taken primarily from Greek and Roman mythology and are short, so they can organically become part of prevalent social media communications via hashtags.
But that class' teacher, Erika Shupe, says her students did not recommend the name Yolo. Hm.
Members of the Bozeman High School Latin club have been advising TWC on its winter storm names for a few years now. In an interview with Montana's KGVO radio, Erika Shupe, who teaches the Latin students in question, explained how Bozeman first got involved with The Weather Channel in 2012.
"We noticed that the storms…started out Athena, Brutus then Caesar. So we were wondering what was going on, it caught our attention as classicists, and then we decided to keep investigating, and realized that The Weather Channel was going kind of all over the gamut with where they were selecting their names from."
One student, Shupe told me over the phone, came up with the idea to send over a list of classical names to help guide The Weather Channel. "We emailed everyone at The Weather Channel and we got a reply. And we were shocked." Shupe and her class were able to contribute a name that year because there were 27 winter storms—one beyond the 26 pre-named by The Weather Channel.
Since then, TWC has worked in collaboration with Bozeman students to name a year's worth of storms. Shupe said that she and her students work on the list in the early spring during Latin club, and submit it to their contacts at TWC later on. Shupe and her students come up with a few years' worth of names for the channel to choose from. She and her class exchange messages with the TWC winter storm team, discussing options and whittling down the lists, but TWC has final say.
Shupe reported that the relationship has been a happy one—no money changes hands, but the students are excited to be a part of the naming process, and have the opportunity to practice official business correspondence with executives. But the class was disappointed by the prospect of a winter storm Yolo.
"We told them that we did not like Yolo. We kept going with some other possibilities, but The Weather Channel overruled that," Shupe told me. "We had had come up with several other options," she said, adding that the students would have been much happier if TWC had gone with one of their suggestions, which included (among others) Yvette, Yuri, and Yarrow.
I asked Shupe where, if not from her teen students, the suggestion came from. "Bryan Norcross and his team suggested Yolo," she said. Bryan Norcross is a hurricane specialist for the The Weather Channel, and works directly with Shupe and her students.
Norcross—who has been known to take pleasure in naming storms—confirmed to me over the phone that Yolo came from him. "Yolo was one that I came up with," he said, adding, "we actually went back and forth between Yvette and Yolo." But Yolo won out, in part because it's spelled the way it sounds. Norcross said his team "tried to use simple, easy to pronounce words." TWC's goal in naming storms was always to come up with something hashtag-able, said Norcross. Most people know—or can figure out—how to spell Yolo, and #yolo is already in the ether.
Plus, Norcross thought Yolo was also a good choice because it's kind of a play on "Carpe Diem," Latin for seize the day. "The students liked it as a nod that they were involved, that it was a young person’s word," he said.
That's not quite the impression I got from Shupe. For one thing, her students say, Yolo is over. "They think it's overused," said Shupe. "They think it's so five years ago and it's just too silly."
Also, Shupe says, her students are cognizant of how serious these storms can be. "We go to school when it's negative thirty… my students are very alert to avalanche danger, they know how damaging [winter storms can be]. They want this to remain serious and not so much a joke."
Ah, the wisdom of youth.
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.