Archive for Saturday, February 7, 2009

Phones, Facebook bridge information gap in ice storm

February 7, 2009


— When an ice storm brought down telephone poles and power lines across much of Kentucky, one small-town mayor pulled out his iPhone and began tapping away, posting rapid-fire updates on Facebook to let his constituents know what was going on.

“Will is glad to report that power in parts of the South Main and Grapevine areas is back on. Slowly but surely ...,” Madisonville Mayor William Cox typed.

Days later, he warned: “Will asks people with frozen water meters to PLEASE not use a torch or build a fire inside the meter box. This WILL damage the cutoff and meter!”

And at another point, he offered this piece of news: “Will was just advised by the Hopkins County School System that there is NO school on Monday or Tuesday.”

The killer storm last week forced many people in Kentucky to get creative just to communicate.

In a rural community 40 miles from Madisonville, a couple used their truck’s OnStar service to summon help when fallen trees blocked the road leading from their trailer. And in Murray, a college radio station managed to stay on the air with the help of a generator, giving people vital information on where to find food and heat.

“I wish I could say I had some great epiphany I was going to use this to communicate with my citizens, but I didn’t,” said Cox, who charged his iPhone in his car to keep his messages flowing. “I just got my phone out and started typing, and I haven’t stopped.”

At the height of the ice storm, more than 1.3 million homes and businesses were left without power in several states, and thousands still don’t have it back. The storm knocked out landline phones and forced some cell phone companies onto backup generators. In many cases, wireless Internet worked when cell phones didn’t get through.

Though his town’s 19,000 residents were staying in shelters, bunking with relatives or cut off from neighbors because they had no power, Cox managed to create a virtual town hall meeting with his iPhone.


spankyandcranky 9 years, 1 month ago

Yes, I had a similar experience while using a computer in a library in Lawrence, KS during a tornado alert. We were all in the basement of the library, waiting to hear when it was safe to go. Well before the library employees were aware of any change in condition, I actually received info online that the alert was over for our county (from another Kansas resident through facebook or myspace -- can't remember which.)

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