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Why does FOX 11 name winter storms? Pete explains

Snow falls outside the FOX 11 and CW 14 studios in Ashwaubenon, Feb. 2, 2016, during Winter Storm Bucky. (WLUK/Scott Hurley)

ASHWAUBENON (WLUK) -- For 30 years, FOX 11 has been naming winter storms. Since the 1987 season, from Snowstorm Ashwaubenon, to this year's list with Winter Storm Abigail at the top, it has been a FOX 11 tradition.

I often get the question "why," and who comes up with the names?


To answer the question why, it's mainly for identification purposes. Much like hurricanes are named, we can track them better and we can refer to them after they've left. We'll always remember Hurricane Harvey that hit Houston this year.

We also remember big winter storms -- like Christine, which turned into Blizzard Christine in February of 2006; or Francesca, a late-season storm March 22 and 23 of 2011 that dumped more than 17 inches of snow, the most in 120 years, and included a lot of thundersnow. Or Snowstorm Bowler, late November of 1995: Ten inches of snow the Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday.

So identification is one reason we name storms, but there's another reason. It's to put you on alert. When you hear we've named a winter storm, you know it will affect you -- because we don't name all storms, just the ones that will make a significant impact on the area.

In fact, significant impact to people, property and travel is one of the criteria we use when we name storms. Another criteria is that the storm will have an accumulation of five inches or more in most of the area. But there are times when we'll name storms without that much snow. Other factors such as blowing snow, ice accumulation and even the timing of the heaviest snow could all come into play.

Now, as for who names the storms, I do. After consulting lists of the most popular names from various decades, I pick 10 names for that year. Different names are used each year, starting with the letter "A."

Thirty years of naming winter storms -- truly a FOX 11 tradition.

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