East Coast storm brings blizzard of social tweets and posts

Twitter and Facebook light up with jokes, information and warnings about #Nemo

When there's a blizzard approaching, people flock to grocery stores for bread and milk, test their generators...and nowadays take to Twitter and Facebook.

Social networks have lit up with activity as a blizzard of of potentially historic proportions rolls toward New England, potentially dumping more than two feet of snow and bringing winds of 50 to 60 mph through Saturday afternoon.

"Listen, I know the snow hasn't fallen yet, but now is the right time to size up the people you're with and figure out who can be eaten," @maureenjohnson tweeted around noon.

She was just one of the people who took to Twitter to joke about, complain about or post videos and photos of the mounting snow storm.

Twitter's new six-second video service Vine also is getting a workout today, with people uploading videos ranging from kids making snow angels to snow blowing across backyards and beaches.

For example, @chrisbrogan tweeted, "Snow angel! http://vine.co/v/bn9nV0YBAXD." And Vermont newspaper The Burlington Free Press tweeted this Vine video of the storm blanketing city streets: "Church and College Streets Friday #btv #snow http://vine.co/v/bnE6ebp2Dne."

Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, said he's not at all surprised that people are spending so much time on social networks talking about and getting information about the storm. After all, a lot of people are working from home today and they're looking for the latest information about the snow.

"People love to connect when the weather's threatening," he added. "Basically, it's a little scary and we don't want to be alone. It's a common subject, affecting us all."

Following storm updates, from both meteorologists and family and friends, also lets people track the course of the storm and the damage it might be bringing.

"For some, it gives you a better sense of what to expect," said Gottheil. "It can give you some warning about power outages, for instance, or restoration of power."

However, it's not just meteorologists and weather geeks who are tweeting and posting.

The New York City Mayor's office is putting out storm warnings and information for city residents. One tweet noted, "Fun fact: There are 6,300 street miles in New York City to be plowed and salted -- that's like going from NYC to LA and back. #Nemo"

Cory Booker, the major of Newark, N.J., also tweeted, "Please check in on/help others. We're a lot like snow flakes. Individually we are beautiful yet fragile. Together we are a powerful force."

NASA also got in on the fun, tweeting a satellite image of the storm, noting, "Call it what you want (#nemo) but this winter nor'easter is looking massive."

NASA storm image
NASA tweeted this image of the East Coast blizzard as it developed over the Atlantic.

Although winter storms are not named officially like hurricanes, the Weather Channel has given this one a name: Nemo.

Today, though, is largely about weather predictors.

The Weather Channel has been tweeting storm updates all day, as has the Weather Underground. "And here is a webcam of that 7" inches of snow in Scarborough, ME," tweeted the Weather Underground.

The National Weather Service is using the blizzard to test a system where it pulls in people's weather observations via Twitter.

"Everyone talks about the weather," the service noted on its Web page. "Now's your chance to "tweet" it and be heard. Through an experimental program, the National Weather Service will be searching for tweets that contain significant weather information."

To stay up-to-date on weather conditions in downtown Boston, IDG News Live has set up a Boston Blizzard Cam.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at  @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

See more by Sharon Gaudin on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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