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What’s in a name? Impending storm dubbed ‘Huda’

By Muath Freij - Jan 04,2015 - Last updated at Jan 04,2015

AMMAN — The news of an impending depression expected to bring snow and heavy rain to the Kingdom this week has inspired a name game among meteorologists and casual weather followers.

The most popular choice at the moment is “Huda”, an Arabic name meaning enlightenment.

Website ArabiaWeather.com, in addition to some online and television media outlets in Jordan and other meteorologists in the Levant, settled on “Huda”, according to Mohammad Shaker, the founder of ArabiaWeather.com. 

“We decided to give the next winter storm this name on the occasion of Prophet Mohammad’s birth anniversary and since this word was mentioned in the holy Koran,” Shaker told The Jordan Times over the phone on Monday.

The country is forecast to be affected by a strong depression Monday night, expected to bring near-zero temperatures and accumulating snow especially on Wednesday and Thursday morning, according to the Jordan Meteorological Department (JMD).

Shaker said the trend of naming depressions and storms depends on the culture of each country. 

“In the West, one of the reasons they name storms and hurricanes is to make it easy for people to look it up when they want to go back to the archives,” the young pharmacist turned meteorologist explained. 

The practice of naming storms began years ago to help in quick identification in warning messages because names are presumed to be far easier to remember than numbers and technical terms, according to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). 

“Many agree that appending names to storms makes it easier for the media to report on tropical cyclones, heightens interest in warnings and increases community preparedness,” the WMO website said, adding that storms used to be named arbitrarily, but the mid-1900s “saw the start of the practice of using feminine names for storms”. 

Shaker said the practice of naming storms in Jordan started in December 2013, when a blizzard that hit the country was dubbed “Alexa”. 

“We wanted to give Arabic names for such weather conditions in accordance with our culture,” he noted. 

JMD Director General Mohammad Samawi said the practice of naming storms is not prevalent in the region because weather conditions are “normal” and hurricanes are not as common as is the case in other regions.

“Weather conditions that bring rain and snow are signs of hope for us because they contribute to increasing water storage in Jordan, while hurricanes bring damage,” he added.

As has become the norm in the local “Twitter-sphere”, the depression’s name and the traditions common in Jordan in preparation for severe weather made for social media fodder.

Princess (@julianatourjman) tweeted: “Everyone is preparing for Huda as if it were an atomic bomb, although Huda has a white, kind heart. Name it Ghada, Deema or Khayriah.”

Moataz Basbuos (‏@moatazbasbuos) commended the name choice. 

“In my opinion, the name Huda is a good choice for the coming storm because it starts affecting the Kingdom at the time of the birth anniversary of ‘the Huda’ [Prophet Mohammad],” he wrote.

Egyptian poet Ahmed Shawqi, known as the “Arab poet laureate”, famously called Prophet Mohammad “the Huda” in a poem celebrating his birth anniversary and in a reference to the enlightenment he brought to the world.

Farah Azab (@farahazab) tweeted: “All that is left is to give people a questionnaire asking them ‘what do you want us to name the next storm?’ So that they would stop criticising everything!”

Lynna Alnimer (@LynnaAlnimer) said she is awaiting the depression impatiently. 

“Come on Huda, we are waiting for you,” she tweeted. 

Hazem Turk (@HazemTurk) voiced hope that the depression will be beneficial for Jordanians. 

“Its name is Huda, then it is a white one. I pray that it will be good for everyone and that no one is deprived of the grace of warmth,” he tweeted. 

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