Article first published as Using Twitter to Learn if Irene Has Destroyed All I Own on Technorati.
I have weathered many hurricanes in my life. Twice I have even had the eye of a hurricane pass right above where I lived (once in New England, once in Virginia). However, this time with Hurricane Irene, is a little scarier for my family: I am right in the middle of moving from the UK to the NYC area and all of my worldly goods are sitting in one 20-foot shipping container just south of Newark Airport—if the area floods we lose everything we own.
Not surprisingly, I have been spending much time trying to find out if Irene has flooded this very important (to me) storage warehouse. Calling the emergency telephone numbers to ask would be irresponsible: emergency personnel are working 24×7 to ensure public safety; it is important to let them do their jobs safely. As such, I have turned to the Internet to find out what is happening.
I looked the websites of the National Hurricane Center, the City of Newark, and various (global and local) news sites. They were good, but almost entirely focused on regional updates, not local ones. They could not tell me if the neighborhoods I was most concerned about were “o.k.”—or if it was time to dig out the telephone numbers for the insurer of my move.
It turns out I found the best information on Twitter. Specifically, I the Tweets by @CityofNewarkNJ (Official Twitter Account of the City of Newark) and @CoryBooker (Newark’s Mayor) have been the most useful. They have told me exactly which streets are flooded and even include pictures of flooding (to let you know how bad things are). The information they are posting is up-to-date, topical, local, accurate—and tremendously beneficial.
So far, we are doing o.k. I am still keeping my fingers crossed—especially for the thousands of families much closer to flooding and the thousands of people trying to help keep them safe. However, I am very grateful that cities like Newark are embracing every channel at their disposal—including new channels like Twitter—to keep their citizens informed.