From Batten to Hunker to Zone A: The Dictionary of Storm Words

In purely semantical terms, Sandy is whipping up some havoc, though of a less dangerous kind than what she's doing atmospherically. Here's a lexical exploration of some of the key storm-related words flying around.

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In purely semantical terms, Sandy is whipping up some havoc, though of a less dangerous kind than what she's doing atmospherically. As Merriam-Webster's Peter Sokolowski tweeted, people are busily looking up storm words on recently, "squall, inclement, batten, hunker, ominous, hurricane." Also: cancel. Here's a lexical exploration of some of the key storm-related words flying around, and some we feel are otherwise notable with regard to Sandy. Can you remember the last time you heard or said "batten down the hatches" when you weren't pretending to be a pirate or sailor for Halloween? Before yesterday, that is?

Aftermath. What happens after the storm passes. This word won't be reality until Tuesday. (Landfall is expected in Southern New Jersey this evening.)

Batten down the hatches. A batten is "a piece of lumber used especially for flooring" or a strip of wood used to seal or reinforce a joint." To batten as a verb is "to fasten with or as if with battens." Batten down the hatches, then, is "to prepare for a difficult or dangerous situation." You should have done this by now.

Bodega-check. When you look across the street to see if the bodega is still open. (It is.)

ConEdison. The body from which many in New York City are getting our electricity. Check outages here, and more power outage information in New York state here, with more on national power outages via the Wall Street Journal: "Utilities expect millions to lose power when Hurricane Sandy moves inland, but damage was limited early Monday afternoon, with roughly 30,000 homes and businesses without electricity and another 40,000 whose power had already been restored." Connecticut Light and Power, Dominion Resources (Virginia and North Carolina), and the Long Island Power Authority all have customers without power. For DC power outages, check this Pepco map.

Deteriorating. What's happening to "conditions" through the course of the day.

Deserted. What the streets are and should be.

Evacuation Center. If in New York, check here for the one nearest you. They are likely to have medical supplies and other resources in case of an emergency.  

Fatigue, Hurricane. It is far too early to have this yet, and if you do, refrain from mentioning it.

Frankenstorm. What you may have been calling Sandy at first, before everyone got really scared of it (and some people told us to stop). Now it's an "official" word! No such luck for Hurritobercane.

Gowanus. The contaminated canal in Brooklyn that is flooding into parts of Zone A.

Go-Bag. What you should have handy, just in case you need to evacuate. Suggested contents from the Office of Emergency Management are here.

Hunker. "To settle in or dig in for a sustained period —used with down <hunker down for a good long wait — New Yorker>" via Merriam-Webster. Ideally with food and your phone charged up.

Irene. The one that came before, featuring inclement weather. 

Just stay where you are. Unless you're in a mandatory evacuation zone.

Killed. What Sandy has done to 67 people, reportedly—51 in Haiti.

Lash. What the storm is doing, according to many a piece of reporting: "to move violently or suddenly," "to thrash or beat violently <rain lashed at the windowpanes>."

Lohan, Lindsay. The most-mocked Tweeter of the storm (thus far)?

Mixtapes. Musical accompaniments that people and news organizations are making to "weather out the storm" and prevent against "hurricane fatigue." (aka, "Sandy Playlists.")

"Not really." If Sandy gets here earlier than originally expected—at the time of this post it had sped up and was predicted to make landfall at 6 p.m.—will the weather get better faster? NY1 chief meteorologist John Davitt says "not really."

Overblown. As in, "hurricane Irene wasn't overblown," it just didn't have the impact we initially expected in New York City. This is not a pun, although sometimes it is. In the best cases, the storm is "overblown," and, essentially, blows over.

Perfect Storm, the. The 1991 storm that inspired the book by Sebastian Junger and the movie starring George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg in which things ended not perfectly at all. Sandy has been called this. The phrase is being used in numerous headlines, with varied success: Sandy is a "Perfect Storm for Gas Prices," for instance.

Quibbling. Particularly, over Sandy's name:

Rockaway. Zone A, a mandatory evacuation zone.

Sandbags. Are all over the place, to prevent flooding—at Goldman Sachs, for instance.

Sandy. The name of this storm. Media organizations, please don't put it in "scare quotes," which seem to indicate it's not real. It seems pretty real.

Shandy. The unofficial drink of the storm. Beer plus lemonade, ginger-ale, cider, or whatever you have on hand.

Squall. "A raucous cry" or "a sudden violent wind often with rain or snow" or "a short-lived commotion."

Storm Surge. From, this is "a rise above the normal water level along a shore caused by strong onshore winds and/or reduced atmospheric pressure." This is what meteorologists say will cause the most damage. Via the AP, "National Hurricane Center Director Rick Knabb said Hurricane Sandy's size means some coastal parts of New York and New Jersey may see water rise from 6 to 11 feet from surge and waves. The rest of the coast north of Virginia can expect 4 to 8 feet of surge. The full moon Monday will add 2 to 3 inches to the storm surge in New York, [Weather Underground meteorologist Jeff] Masters said."

Twitter. A place to look for breaking news and hurricane Sandy info. Check the Wall Street Journal's Weather list.

Umbrellas. Will they do any good in Sandy? Don't go outside, don't try to find out, and we don't think so. (Umbrellapocalypse: What we're likely to see in the aftermath, if people do not heed this advice.)

Very bad. The simplest phrase being used in weather reports to describe what is clearly a "very bad" storm.

Viral. What your fake Sandy photo may go, if today is any indication.

Weathering the storm. What punny types say as they deal with Sandy's beginning, middle, and end—and then the aftermath. Meaning "to survive a difficult situation," it's an idiom to refer to something that is not a tempest in a teacup. Other weather idioms here.

Wikipedia. Sandy has the honor of an already extensive page.

Wind Event. In possible 90 mph doses with gusts of 110 mph—currently, as a Category One hurricane—we have a "wind event" not a "rain event." (Expect flooding from storm surges and wind, not a ton of rainfall.)

XO. Give your loved ones a hug.

Yes. It will, at some point, be past us. Hang in there.

Zone A (and B, and C). Your likelihood in New York City of experiencing flooding, from high to lower. Zone A currently has mandatory evacuations. Check your zone here.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.