On the KnowTheNetwork.com blog, there is a fascinating post, “Tornado Alley, Twitter Style,” by Keith Crawford. He offers a terrific case study of how Twitter — and in particular the hashtag #ARwx created byÂ one Tweeter — outpaced the mainstream media in informing his Arkansas community when a tornado struck this week:
Apr 30, 2010 may well be known as the night that new media changed the game in the state of Arkansas.Â Tonight was one of the most amazing examples of the power of Twitter and in turn showed how excruciatingly far we have to go.Â Hereâ€™s how 4 little letters beat the entire mainstream media.
There is a storm a cominâ€™.Â Itâ€™s springtime in the South and that means itâ€™s tornado season.Â Tornados are a very strange animals. They touchdown for seconds, change directions in a blink of an eye and travel at 50+ mph. Itâ€™s a weather event like no other.
We arenâ€™t strangers to twisters down here and we all know to turn on the TV, break out the severe weather radios and wait for the weatherman to say â€œtake coverâ€.Â Only tonight was different.
There was one system that had better news, quicker updates, broader coverage, and more reporters in the field than any other. Twitter.
I canâ€™t do it justice but let me attempt to give you a glimpse of what you could find:
* The National Weather Service guy, @wxmandan giving you updates on NWS bulletins and reports as he saw them. A couple of times heâ€™d even say â€œwe are getting ready to releaseâ€¦â€ And every person in the stream had the info 1-2min before the TV (thatâ€™s an eternity in tornado time);
* Regional forecasters adding 3d images and all sorts of graphs I canâ€™t even explain;Â Storm reports statewide, eyewitness accounts of hail and funnel cloud;
* Links to webcast of the Arkansas State Police radio feed;
*Instant notifications of tornado sirens wherever they sounded;
*People reporting that tv/power was out and they were ONLY getting news via the #arwx stream. (That is huge! We are talking about keeping people safe. Not theory, ROI, or analytics but vital information distribution)
Simply, the most comprehensive data stream you can possibly imagine, made possible by the #arwx hashtag. There was only one thing missing. The organizations that are actually make a living reporting news and weather…
In the rest of the post, Crawford elaborates on the event with useful screenshots and offers suggestions to local broadcast media on better using social media during these emergencies. Thanks to theÂ AllHandsDotNet Twitter feed for bringing this to my attention.