Mother Nature can be cruel.
Her brute force late last week dropped 74 tornadoes (at today’s count) across the Midwest and South, decimating entire towns and killing 39 people in five states. The outbreak illustrated to all of us once again her awesome power and fury.
As this spring approaches, the threat for more severe weather is on the horizon. And with the change of the seasons, comes changes in the way many people stay informed when wicked weather does strike.
Social media is playing an even larger role in many aspects of everyday life, and severe weather is no exception. As the National Weather Service issued its nearly 280 tornado warnings last Friday, even NOAA took to the web for eyewitness accounts. Within minutes, updates were posted to Twitter and Facebook while videos and images of its aftermath were posted to YouTube and Flickr.
More than ever, social media sites have become an essential place for those closest to severe weather to share updates, status reports and warnings. It’s how many people find out about what’s going on and more importantly, what’s to come.
Many weather warning agencies, cities and broadcast entities are embracing social media as the way to warn citizens of impending storms. Accuweather.com and The Weather Channel launched their own social media channels to provide direct contact with audiences. And in Columbus, Ga., city emergency management teams are looking at social media as a way to enhance their existing weather alert systems. Twelve people were killed when twisters struck the area in 2007.
In a crisis, social media can spread information… or misinformation like wildfire. Emergency management specialists know this all too well. Offering official information solutions for those who thrive on the web is their way of staying ahead of the fact-finding storm.
The bottom line is that as more of us turn to the social web to stay up-to-the minute when severe weather strikes, sharing our own stories can help more people stay safe and stay connected. And that is where the true power of the social storm can best even Mother Nature’s wrath.
If you would like to use social media to stay ahead of storms in your area, the most common Twitter weather hashtags begin with “#”, the two-letter state abbreviation, followed by “WX.” For example, #SDWX, for South Dakota, #MNWX for Minnesota and #IAWX for Iowa.
Connect with NOAA via social media. Learn more at http://www.noaa.gov/socialmedia/.