There’s nowhere I need to be. Today is the third snowy morning of the winter. They’ve cancelled school and my workplace, the county library system, is operating on a delayed schedule. I haven’t worked there long enough to know if we’re likely to close for the day. This is the first real storm we’ve gotten this year.
The last two snowy mornings, we set an opening time for 11:00. I got up on schedule, cleared off my car and got into work. 7:30, my normal time. And I sat there all by myself each time for two and a half hours. Today I’m taking it easy.
This is winter storm Maya. They started naming snow storms in 2012, but I didn’t catch on to this until Pennsylvania got walloped by a thirty-incher in 2016. Jonas: In terms of disruption, it wasn’t that different from a hurricane. It took weeks to clear stuff away. That storm deserved a name. Maya? We have a few inches and we expect a few more. Hardly worth a name. I’m probably still going to work.
They started naming hurricanes in 1953. Before that, they used descriptors like “the big-ass nor’easter of ’32.” At first, they only used female names, but by 1978, as men started realizing that women were actually getting more rights in society, we lobbied for parity—storm names of our own.
In 1978, I was almost an adult. Sixteen, and oddly excited about extreme weather, I started dreaming about Hurricane Jeff. My first real experience with a hurricane was Agnes in 1972. The D.C. area, my home, got clobbered with well over a foot of rain. My basement filled up with water and the school field up the street turned into a lake. My friends and I waded knee deep in the water, wisely afraid to go any deeper.
Hurricane Gloria, 1985, was the next large storm system to hit the D.C. area. I spent the night at home, listening to music, awaiting the expected power outage The radio station played various covers of Van Morrison’s Gloria all night. By ’85, they were using male names for every other storm, and the male/female rotation was correct for a Hurricane Jeff. Without the internet, I couldn’t easily search the planned names for the rest of the season, so I crossed my fingers and hoped. In late October, Hurricane Juan formed in the Gulf of Mexico. I was crest-fallen. But when Juan turned out to be a pithy little storm with no real destruction, I was happy to have Jeff spared for a potential category five monster.
I never got my storm. There have been plenty of male “J” hurricanes: Jose, Jerry, Joaquin, even a second Juan in 2003. With climate change, our hurricane season easily extends to ten or more storms. There is always a “J” storm. And now with snowstorms regularly being assigned names, my chances have doubled. But over the past few decades, Jeff, as a name, has gone out of vogue. Once a top ten name, it now doesn’t even make the top one hundred. With two children in school over the past eleven years, I’ve never once heard of a kid named Jeff. Jonas, Jeremy, Jayden, Jaxon. These are the storm names you’re going to see in the coming years.
I’m a has-been. An also ran. I never got my shot at immortality. My wife Susan has had a hurricane named after her, three times. In 1958, again in 1969 and most recently as a cyclone in 1997. She couldn’t care less. I know that names circle back around every few generations. One day, Jeff will be back in style. And when that happens, maybe this time, I’ll have a storm named after me. I only hope I live long enough to see it.
As for today, the great Winter Storm Maya continues to dump a quarter inch of snow per hour. The library is closed for the day, and my big plan is now to go for a snowy hike. Stay warm, stay safe, have a relaxing day.