NEW YORK (AP) — To people who were caught in snarled traffic or had to shovel snow with leaves still on the trees, the storm pulling off the East Coast on Thursday was your basic nor'easter.
To The Weather Channel, it was Athena.
The network has taken to naming winter storms, much like is done for tropical systems. The Weather Channel says it makes the storms easier to identify and will raise awareness among those in their paths.
It also draws attention to The Weather Channel at times of bad weather, when the network's ratings usually soar.
The National Weather Service names hurricanes but isn't recognizing the cable channel's winter storm names. The government agency sent out an advisory to its personnel Wednesday asking them to "please refrain from using the term 'Athena' in any of our products." Many news services, including The Associated Press, aren't recognizing the names in their coverage, either.
The weather service has said it has no opinion about the names but noted that winter storms can end and redevelop, making it difficult to define where one storm ends and another begins.
Oddly enough, it was the weather service that first dubbed Superstorm Sandy "Frankenstorm" many days before it made landfall. That nickname faded, in large part because The Weather Channel would not use it for fear it made light of a serious situation.
At The Weather Channel, a team of meteorologists decides which winter storms get names based on factors like expected snow depth and wind speed, handing them out no more than three days in advance.
Athena was named, in part, for fears that it would add to damage in areas already reeling from Sandy. The winter storm dropped as much as a foot of snow in some parts of New Jersey and knocked out power to tens of thousands of customers.
The Weather Channel has already named another winter storm expected to sock the Northern Plains as Brutus.
Earlier this fall, the network released in advance a list of 26 names it will be using for storms, also like is done for hurricanes. The names, including Helen, Luna, Magnus and Ukko, are primarily based in Greek or Roman mythology, although the storm dubbed simply Q was named for the New York City subway line.
If anyone is digging out from Zeus in a couple of months, you'll know it has been a brutal winter.