The subways were closed, bridges were shut down, and businesses were shuttered, but Hurricane Irene didn’t stop the massive flow of information on social media networks over the weekend.
Dozens of pages were dedicated to the hurricane on Facebook, and Twitter included a steady stream of updates about prep, riding the storm out, and the beginning of cleanup.
Twitter hashtags #irene and #hurricane kept everyone on the Eastern Seaboard informed over the weekend on the storm’s movement and the damage it left in its wake. Throughout Sunday, when the storm marched through New York and New Jersey, #Irene tweets came in nearly every second.
On Sunday, seven of Twitter’s top 10 trending topics were hurricane-related posts.
News stations used #irene to pour out news updates and hurricane coverage scheduling. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie tweeted Sunday to stay indoors, also offering links to news conferences.
As the storm hit New York City, Mayor Mayor Micheal Bloomberg offered some edicts, and words of encouragement, via Twitter:
Sunday, 4 a.m.: RT @NYCMayorsOffice: We are in the midst of the most dangerous period of the storm, so for your safety, continue to remain indoors. #Irene
Saturday, 11 p.m.: Please stay where you are until the storm is over. Look out for one another. We will update you tomorrow morning. #Irene
Saturday, 11 p.m.: It doesn’t matter if you’re in a shelter tonight, or in your home, or staying with friends or family. We’re all in this together. #Irene
For The Weather Channel, the coverage was its version of the Super Bowl. David Blumenthal, the Weather Channel’s director of public relations, told PR Daily on Sunday that television viewership and its digital platforms including weather.com, mobile apps, and mobile Web properties had record or near record days. This included record days for its iPad app and video views on weather.com.
The TV network has also had some of its highest-rated days of the year.
“Social media is a huge part of how we cover severe weather,” Blumenthal said.
A Facebook community page called Hurricane Irene was established on Aug. 21, when Irene was officially given a name. At the time it was a tropical storm. Leading into Monday morning, the page had grown to 20,000 “likes” and featured hundreds of comments, videos and photos. The Facebook Hurricane Irene “interest” page logged nearly 100,000 “likes.”
One company, Clean Pro Restoration, used the forum to solicit business — ”…….FLOODED??? WATER DAMAGE?? STORM DAMAGE? CALL TODAY” — drawing an immediate backlash from the page’s contributors. The comment was removed. The company’s anemic website offers no information about where the company is located or who runs it.
PR Daily discussed some rules for hurricane pitching on Friday; flaunting your business in the wake of a tragedy is a no-no.
Social media also served as an outlet for some to complain about nonstop media coverage of the storm. One New Jersey Facebook poster said:
“Is it wrong to opine that if Hurricane Irene doesn’t level the Statue of Liberty, kill me and allow my wife to cash her $1 million life insurance lotto ticket, or turn Princeton New Jersey into Tripoli, it’ll all be a letdown for the masses minions and television anchors and reporters?”
Another Tweet said: “Hurricane Irene is Category 1. CNN hype is Category 4.”