Superstorm Sandy: Social Media and Web-Enabled Mobile Enter Mainstream as Credible Information Sources

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Thursday, 6 February 2014
Hall C3 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
James West, Earth Networks, Germantown, MD; and R. Hunt

James West and Rachel Hunt The evolution of the internet and the proliferation of mobile devices such as the smartphone and tablet attached to high speed cellular and Wi-Fi communication networks enable people with access to weather data and information everywhere. Additionally, social media tools like Twitter and Facebook offer a communication lifeline for people affected by natural and weather disasters when land-based communication systems are compromised by damaged electric and communication infrastructures. Social media has enabled users and the weather community to become involved in a two-way dialogue that offers factual and credible on-the-ground verification and information in real-time. Conversely, local, regional and state government, school and power officials are overloaded with information from these same social media sources as well as the round-the-clock media coverage. Superstorm Sandy impacted land-based communication systems, cutting off thousands, including emergency management personnel, from vital information. Social media and web-enabled mobile applications became an essential tool for gathering and broadcasting credible in-situ real-time information by thousands of individuals. During the storm, Earth Networks provided critical real-time weather information to support individuals in making critical weather-related decisions. This presentation will outline how Earth Networks utilized social media, its proprietary weather observation network and live web briefings by Earth Networks meteorologists to provide decision makers with a forum to get precise and accurate forecast information. Data analysis will be presented showing usage figures for the various media platforms, demonstrating the value of social media and mobile communications to publicize essential weather information.