No sooner was the storm poised to come ashore than a Twitter account was formed, @Irene, where information about the storm was posted:
If my “tweets” and all of your “retweets” led to helping someone somewhere in some small way, it was worth all the effort…
13 hours ago
Thank you, Ms. Tien for letting me use it this long. And thank you everyone for listening and responding and sharing…
13 hours ago
OK, I think I’ve kept Irene from using her account long enough…
13 hours ago
Leaving US, starting to lose my strength. Canada, please stay safe while I’m passing through. #irene bit.ly/rcjd4t
14 hours ago
Within hours more than 11,000 people had been attracted to the feed, posting comments and exchanging local information about what was happening. In all, more than ONE MILLION Tweets were exchanged about Hurricane Irene.
On Facebook the story was much the same as users exchanged information, posted photos and shared videos of the storm as it passed them by.
Despite the fact the storm damage was minimal, social media was abuzz with talk of Hurricane Irene and its potential impact on the east coast.
In New York City, though, residents remained largely unharmed, and that’s because of the unprecedented mandatory evacuation of low-lying areas and shutdown of mass transit. These were first-of-their-kind moves boldly initiated by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
However, one could very well argue that it is because of social media and citizen journalism that Bloomberg put these restrictions in place. In the last week of 2010, New York suffered a catastrophic blizzard that crippled the city.
That blizzard spurred a flurry of viral videos and Twitter comments focusing on incompetent snow plow drivers, union laborers literally sleeping on the job, and thousands of people abandoning stranded buses or broken-down subways.
Were it not for those first-hand accounts, and actual photos and videos of this debacle, Bloomberg would not have faced such criticism and perhaps would not have been so quick to act in the wake of this more recent natural disaster.
Sure, we’ve had big storms in this climate of social media omnipresence, but Irene posed a threat to nearly 10% of the entire US population. Regardless of how much damage it caused, it was guaranteed to be a bigger story than, say, Hurricane Ike back in 2009, one of the last hurricanes to actually make landfall in the US.
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