Where was Twitter during Katrina was all I could think over the weekend. And for good reason too. Being a former New Orleanian, it pained me to watch not only the network coverage of Katrina, but also the lack of information and the disinformation flowing in and out. Thanks to Twitter I felt I had a better handle on what was going on in the city and its surrounding areas during Hurricane Gustav instead of relying solely on Jim Cantore. Sorry Jim.
Over the course of the last 3 days, I found myself doing the following: Tapping into #Gustav on Summize while watching the Weather Channel, texting and tweeting to friends and family who still lived on the Gulf Coast and who had evacuated (some did not), what I was learning from others via Twitter, and then sharing and pushing that information back and forth with others through my tweets. I felt like I was participating in another of David Alson’s and Chris Brogan’s Twebinars, only this one had larger ramifications. In fact, I knew of the Industrial Canal starting to spill over a full 20-30 minutes before it was broadcast on CNN and the Weather Channel, and that was scarry cool.
Even post Gustav, valuable and credible ( most of it) information is and was flowing through Twitter faster than you if were hoping to hear it on the radio, read it in the newspaper or hope to get it from your local television broadcasts. Twitter ID’s had been created specifically devoted to Gustav such as @GustavReporter which were some Chicago Tribune reporters covering Hurricane Gustav, but they still were providing reliable and informative tweets. Another was local @MarkMayhew whose tweets from the Quarter were dead on during the height of the storms landfall, and @YatPundit whose tweets before, during and after the storm have been and had been invaluable!
The point is this, Twitter was providing very very informative and real time information without the hyperbole that often accompanies the national broadcasts. The tweets were coming from people on the ground and in the city. With only 140 characters, one has a tendency to only tell you what is most important without the descriptives, if you know what I mean.
Twitter is also bridging the communications gaps between people that want to help and might not know how or who to contact. Since the storm has come ashore, countless tweets have come over of people and organizations who want to help and are essentially tweeting their availability. Sans the pitch and sans the B.S. Simply real time tweets from people who can help, who can share their experiences, who were there, who’ve been there, and who are there. It doesn’t get more real time than that! At the least, I think Twitter passes the test as a major form of communicating during extreme circumstances like a Cat 3 storm.
I know all of you at some point were paying attention to what was going on down here on the Gulf Coast, but did it dawn on any of you to follow the tweets? I’m curious.