On My Radar: Experiencing Hurricane Irene through Social Media
I can’t sleep because I can’t stop obsessively following the latest news on the Tornado Watch and anything having to do with Hurricane Irene. According to the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Irene is currently a Category 1 storm that made landfall along the New Jersey coast and will pass the area this afternoon.
The worst of the storm is expected this Sunday afternoon. At least 7,500 National Guard troops have been deployed to provide help to states affected by the storm. According to NBC New York, Some 9,600 people spent the night in city shelters.
Even though we have all the windows covered and I haven’t looked outside since earlier this evening, I am able to stay updated on everything through Twitter and other sources.
I think it’s telling that FEMA hasn’t updated their Twitter in over 8 hours. Way to help an already bad reputation. Here is what I’ve been following in real-time tonight:
1. Twitter search query for #Irene
This is bringing me the latest updates from New Yorkers all over the 5 boros and from news outlets. This curated list of accounts focusing on Hurricane Irene updates is helpful too.
2. “You are listening to Irene” mash-up of police scanner and ambient music
This has a surreal, yet informative soothing effect on me. The music is helping to keep me calm and the intermittent crackles of information from the scanner reassures me that steps are being taken to protect people.
3. WPRI.com Tracking Irene liveblog
This is the most up-to-date liveblog I can find at the moment. Lots of useful info.
6:24 a.m. | â€œBarely a hurricane Sunday but massive and packed with rain, Irene flooded towns, killed at least eight people and knocked out power to more than 2 million homes and businesses as it plodded up the East Coast, saving the strongest winds it had left for New York,â€ the AP reports.
Here are some key updates from other parts of the Eastern Seaboard:
* The New York City transit system is shut down because of weather for the first time in history.
* Ireneâ€™s only hurricane-force winds (74 mph or more) cover a relatively small area east of the center.
* Tornadoes reported in Maryland and Delaware, with warnings issued elsewhere. (There is a tornado watch in southern Rhode Island.)
* â€œIrene caused flooding from North Carolina to Delaware, both from the seven-foot waves it pushed into the coast and from heavy rain. Eastern North Carolina got 10 to 14 inches of rainâ€¦. Virginiaâ€™s Hampton Roads area was drenched with at least nine inches, with 16 reported in some spots.â€
* Airlines canceled more than 9,000 flights from North Carolina to Boston, including 3,900 on Saturday.
4. NYDailyNews.com Storm Tracker 2011 Live-blog
This hasn’t been updated since 4 a.m. but there is still plenty of information about the latest Tornado Watch alerts, power outage data, etc.
5. A person named Irene on Twitter who has been co-opted by the hurricane
The WSJ has the story on how Irene decided to “be” the hurricane and help share information. She’s gone to bed now and hopefully there will be less need for her to help later in the day…
I posted this at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday, August 28. I am at a friend’s house in Jersey City Heights, who was kind enough to pick me up in Hoboken Saturday afternoon after my Amtrak reservation was canceled. I had no way out of the city and my building is in an evacuation zone near water, so I headed for Jersey on the PATH.
I’m glad I decided to leave town temporarily because at least I have friends nearby. I am worried about my cat, who I had to leave behind (with plenty of food and water). I hope he’s OK. I hope all my friends and work colleagues are OK. At least 10 people on the East Coast have died so far from this hurricane and as of right now, over 3 million people are without power.
6. #Instacane tag on Instagram
The latest photos from people tagging their hurricane-related photos on Instagram. Some of the photos in the feed are definitely not related, but many provide an interesting and personal look at what is happening in real-time.
7. NYTimes.com’s Hurricane Irene Tracking Map
This map basically just confirms what I’m reading. It’s helpful to see the projected path of the storm but I won’t start to feel any sense of calm until the hurricane actually reaches NYC this afternoon and I can assess the impact.
9. Reuters Hurricane Irene liveblog
This liveblog is curating relevant tweets, the latest updates from the National Hurricane Center and more.
10. AB7NEWS.COM’s live affiliate feed from CNN
This is the best live-feed I’ve found so far. It cuts from weather tracking updates to street scenes in real-time.
I’ve lived in NYC for 7 years. I’m not a New Yorker and never will be — I wasn’t born here. But I do know one thing: NYC is filled with strong energy so I know that, no matter what happens, people will draw from that strength and prevail. New Yorkers are survivors and this city has a way of testing its inhabitants — locals, tourists, transplants — everyone is tested. It’s part of what makes this place so special. I know we’ll make it through this together.
edit: [6:23 a.m] I think it’s interesting how quickly (due to social media) fake photos of Irene are circulating on the web. People are photoshopping photos from previous storms, and even though many have disclaimers in the comments that the photos are fake, people continue to RT and share them.
I’ve noticed that the BBC is using social media to look for people stuck in Manhattan who are staying in hotels. I wonder how, under the circumstances, that they verify the information provided by those who call in.
I’m not particularly interested in looking at anything except the news right now, but I know that this coming week I’ll be looking out for mashup videos and all other forms of creative Irene-inspired web detritus.