Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Six Month Anniversary-A Disaster in the Electronic Age

Tonight, I went out to the Facebook Binghamton Flood 2011 page.  I had not been to that page in months.  But not that long ago, it had been a lifeline of sorts, along with various other electronic resources.

I had promised, months ago, to talk about electronic resources I used when this disaster hit our area, and I was some 10 hours away in Southern Maine. It's about time I keep that promise.

Let me explain....

Today is the six month anniversary of flooding that started six months ago yesterday here in upstate NY with flash flooding and continued today as streams and rivers overflowed, giving up after our soggiest weather year in history, under the strain of 10 plus inches of rain from Tropical Storm Lee.  I've written these words so many times now that my fingers type the word without effort, without thought.

Ironically, the 6 month date was a Thursday, too:  Thursday, September 8. The same day the Binghamton Flood 2011 site was set up.

 I followed the progress  flood several ways:
1.  through Twitter, which I think was the most immediate.  One link twittered under a hashtag set up for flood news provided a mashup of an area Google map and road closures.  If only we had listened:  it was more accurate than 511, which led us astray when we tried to return home.  A reporter from a local paper also posted Twitter updates.  Actually I would have depended on it more but I didn't think about using Twitter until the very last.  Shame on me.

2.  through Facebook:  the posts and photo updates from my son, stranded in our house after his neighborhood suffered a flash flood (he barely got out).  Hours after he got to our house, our neighborhood started to flood.  When the firemen came to announce an evacuation at 2:30 am on Thursday morning, my son refused to leave and spent the next couple of days stranded, with a couple of neighbors (one disabled) to keep him company.

I also communicated with one of those neighbors through Facebook chat.  (as he reads my blog, I want to tell him, once again, "thank you.")

3.  Through a reporter who lived over the river in downtown Binghamton,NY and set up a video camera, giving live updates through the night.

4. Through phone.  You might say "that isn't electronic" but our phone service is carried over the Internet.  It was fortunate we never lost power.

I was very lucky that the motel I was staying in (not a chain) had a good Internet connection because my lifeline was electronic. 

Email?  Not so much, except to update some relatives who were not on Facebook. 

At some point, I discovered the Binghamton Flood 2011 Facebook site and after I was home it became a lifeline, advising of stores closed, or where you could do laundry (maybe), updates on lifting of boil water orders,  advising when roads reopened, communicating stories, and  enabling readers to upload photos.  

We've come a long way, baby (as the old advertising slogan once said.)

We have a long way to go.  Our ups and down will continue.  I still don't know if my neighborhood of Westover has a future.

But whatever that future is, I know this:  social media allowed us of the flood to tell our stories to the world.  And, I thank my readers for all of their support these past six months.

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