Winter began exactly one month ago, but from the dearth of snow on the ground you wouldn’t know it. That’s all supposed to change this weekend as “dangerous winter storm Jonas” is expected to wreak havoc by bringing “crippling snow” and “heavy ice” to much of the mid-Atlantic region. New York, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. are all on high alert: Talk of Jonas —and the precautions people are taking for it— has reached near-apocalyptic levels (supermarkets across the area already report low stocks of milk, bread, and toilet paper). You might call the impending storm “biblical” and if you do, you wouldn’t be that wrong.
The Weather Channel has been naming winter storms since 2012, but their choice for this year’s snowmageddon is a little strange—not because the name Jonas has nothing to do with colossal amounts of precipitation, but because it does. Jonas, or rather its pre-anglicized Hebrew counterpart yonah [יונה] is actually a key character in the most famous storm in history: the flood in Genesis that sent Noah and two of each animal into an ark for 40 days and nights. Ironically, yonah, or “dove,” in that story did not represent the danger, havoc, and doom expected from the Jonas of our time. Instead, the dove, sent out by Noah thrice to determine whether or not it was safe to leave the ark, was a sign of the storm’s conclusion, an indication that tranquility had been restored. So it’s almost unfitting for the Weather Channel to name what might “rank among the biggest east coast snowstorms in living memory” after the singular biblical indicator for the calm after the storm.
Maybe the folks at the Weather Channel didn’t go to Hebrew school. Maybe they’re just super optimistic about Jonas’s aftermath. Or maybe, they’re well aware of the storm’s biblical etymology, and the joke’s on us.
Jordana Narin is an intern at Tablet