This hurricane season a flurry of tweets and a hailstorm of social media information are in the forecast.
The agencies that provide storm-related information on this, the 20th anniversary season of Hurricane Andrew, will tap technology in the way the masses seems most active these days: online and pushing apps on their phone.
“We have a Twitter account, Facebook posts, YouTube, a blog and also a new Power Tracker system for customers to monitor, in real time, power outages and restoration efforts,” said Neil Nissan, spokesman for Florida Power & Light.
The Power Tracker allows users to type in their address on a mobile device, tablet or computer and find directions quickly. The recently launched FPL site alerts residents about power outages in their area and how fast they can expect to see service restored.
“It beats the old way people used to have, to call us. This can work on anything that has a Web component,” Nissan said.
The power company has also boosted its presence on Twitter with its @InsideFPL account, which sends information links and items on hurricane preparation and other updates on a regular basis. More than 4,500 people are following the Twitter feed and 14,500 keep tabs on issues related to the power supply on the company’s FPL Connect Facebook page.
The growth of social media is simply too big to ignore, especially during the summer months when people in coastal states like Florida, Louisiana, Texas and the Carolinas are at their most anxious.
“Any time we can communicate to our customers quicker and more effectively, it’s a good thing,” Nissan said. “These are important channels to communicate to our customers.”
The National Weather Service is experimenting with Twitter, meteorologist David Ross said, but is much more active on Facebook since launching a page in March 2011. The page, US National Weather Service Miami Florida, features weather updates, photos of recent events — such as a waterspout captured off the coast of West Palm Beach earlier in May — and warnings. The page ramps up with informational posts during high-impact events.
“The big thing is pushing for people to check out our Facebook pages and the website has the most up-to-date info,” Ross said. Social media sites, like Facebook, are “becoming more popular. We have 1,800 ‘likes’ on our page and it keeps growing, especially when you have high-impact events going on.”
Apps, many of them available for free on iTunes for the iPhone and iPad, are becoming more common this hurricane season, as well.
WeatherBug has been around for years and includes multicolored graphics and copious data on storms in the area, a seven-day forecast, detailed analysis of rain totals, wind speeds and camera shots from local areas specific to your location.
Newer additions include state-specific free Hurricane Tracker apps, which will show the plotted course of a hurricane as it threatens coastal territories and provides information on disaster relief efforts.
A $2.99 version of the Hurricane Tracker app adds more features, such as push alerts, audio and video updates, real-time warnings and dozens of maps.
WeatherAlerts, a $4.99 app, sends out alerts that emit sound even when the phone is turned off and includes information on hurricanes, tornadoes and other threatening storms.
The free Hurricane Supply List app could also come in handy as a last-minute reminder for items you need to have on hand at the start of the season, including fresh batteries, water and canned food. The app lets users check-off items once acquired.
Follow @HowardCohen on Twitter.