A Beastly Blizzard? Draco Rings in a Snowy 12/21/12 for Apocalypse-Watchers

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Winter Storm Draco is bringing difficult travel conditions for Christmas drivers. Photo: jmv/ CC by 2.0

The winter solstice is coming, and it’s going to be a snowy one in many parts of the United States.

While Winter Storm Draco may bring a white Christmas to places across the Midwest, the storm is causing a dangerous driving conditions for Christmas travelers this year.

Blizzards? High Winds, Thick Snow, and the Potential For Whiteout Conditions

So, what’s going on with Winter Storm Draco?

On Wednesday, Draco moved across eastern Colorado, western Nebraska, and parts of Kansas.

On Thursday, snow fell at the rate of an inch per hour in some locations, causing blizzard conditions in eastern Iowa, Wisconsin, portions of Michigan and northwestern Illinois.

A blizzard is a severe winter snowstorm with high winds and low visibility, and Draco certainly qualifies – visibility was extremely poor, around 1/4 mile in some areas.

While Draco will not leave as much snow in the Chicago area, it will make roads very slushy and potentially icy into the wee hours on Thursday night and Friday morning. Weather watchers expect strong winds, which may lead to whiteout conditions in northern Indiana, western Michigan and northeastern Ohio on the winter solstice. During a whiteout, there is so much wind and snow in the air that visibility is drastically reduced; everything just looks white.

Draco’s clearly a monster of a storm, but why does it have a name?

Will Winter Storm Draco live up to its name? Image: fireflythegreat / CC by 2.0

Winter Storms Named

Draco actually means dragon, and it does also happen to be the name of a somewhat malevolent character from Harry Potter. If watchers of the Mayan calendar are correct and the world is going to end on the winter solstice 2012, this fiery name is a fitting one for a solstice storm. Why the sudden catchy moniker for a storm system?

This year, The Weather Channel announced that they would begin to name winter storms. This is taking a page from the hurricanes’ book. Katrina, Sandy – some hurricanes have names that are stuck in our collective memory. For hundreds of years, people have been naming hurricanes, and in World War Two the American military began naming hurricanes with women’s names. Hurricane names are retired, and not reused, if the hurricane is particularly notable.

Will Winter Storm Names Stick?

Why the sudden change to naming winter storms – aren’t winter storms simply storms that happen during the cold season? Naming a storm makes it easier to talk about, and in these days of web-searches, it also makes it easier to unearth information about a specific storm. In Europe, storms other than hurricanes have been named for decades, so in this case, North America is a little behind the times.

With names like Xerxes and Brutus, the names that the channel has thought up so far are certainly innovative. When the snows of the winter subside, we will see if naming storms helps travelers search well and make plans, or whether people prefer to continue to refer to storms by talking about the year in which they occurred. Either way, we’ll most likely remember Draco, unless the world does end on December 21st.

Resources

Accuweather. Chicago Braces for Freeze-Up. (20120. Accessed December 20, 2012.

The Weather Channel. Why the Weather Channel is Naming Winter Storms. (2012). Accessed December 20, 2012.

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