Magazine article Online

Natural Disasters and Their Online Implications

Magazine article Online

Natural Disasters and Their Online Implications

Article excerpt

I had my editorial for this issue almost finished when Katrina blew it away. I don't mean literally--I was not in New Orleans or other affected Gulf Coast locales where the hurricane did major damage. The storm, however, triggered some memories of other natural disasters and the role online played--or didn't.

I missed Katrina, but I was there for Hurricane Iwa when it hit Kauai in November 1982 (and I have the tee-shirt to prove it). We had very little warning for that storm, only a few hours as I recall, and we used the time to load up on nonperishable food while marveling at the locals who were busy buying snack foods and beer. Iwa predated laptop computers, so I didn't have the benefits of today's Internet. On Kauai, we were essentially out of touch. We knew very little about the storm or the damage until after the fact, when we walked the area.

In October 1991, fire ravaged the Oakland, Calif., hills. I had moved from the area a few years earlier, but still had many friends and former neighbors in the path of the fire. The Well kept me in touch. The concept of blogs didn't exist in 1991, but there were postings to The Well that presaged blogging, including a guy who posted that, looking out his window, he could see the fire headed his way. I asked about my neighborhood and people answered with real-time information. The Well, always ahead of its time, exemplified "citizen journalism" before we knew that term. The "on the scene" personal reports were edifying and frightening.

Deb Shinder, who writes the wonderful WXP ezine [www.wxpnews.com], talked in her Sept. …

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