Gustav: Angry Tweets & Tweets We Never Hope To Read

Well, it’s two days since the Katrina Anniversary date and here we are expecting another hurricane, Gustav. The storm’s birth and slow growth and progress in the Caribbean have been torturing us for over a week now. It’s certainly distracted me from keeping up with my promised picture-a-day Katrina memorial.

The Twitter is all a-twitter; even a reporter from the Chicago Tribune who came down to cover the storm used Twitter to quickly connect with NOLA area sources. He’s written a story (featuring our own NolaNotes) about the use of Twitter by people keeping up with everyone’s preparations; whether they’re staying or evacuating; where they’re going, what they’re taking; and, the status of traffic along the various evacuation routes.

It’s a great topic. I was convinced for a year after I first signed up for Twitter that it was absolutely useless. I’ve seen the light since then, and I’m glad the national media is recognizing how useful the service is in emergency situations. Twitter was put to good use during the recent San Diego wildfires and Los Angeles earthquake, too.

Twitter also lets people vent. Following regular updaters, and their 140-character tweets, since Gustav formed up reveals all the stages of hurricane angst. Tweets have gone from interested concern, while it was south of Haiti, to growing concern as it strengthened past Jamaica, then terror as it exploded to a category four as it approached Cuba.

But along with the concern was a spirit of defiance. We remembered (and tweeted about) a time when approaching storms weren’t that big of a deal. Neighbors and families boarded houses together. There were block parties with cookouts featuring all that meat that was fixing to go bad when the power went out. We made sure each of us had enough candles and flashlights and radios and batteries. But we were not leaving. When the winds passed, we got together and fixed what needed fixing in the neighborhood and kept our collective bravado together.

When Gustav approached, the NOLA bloggers and tweeters talked about not leaving. About getting generators, supplies, making arrangements for friends in flood-prone areas. We wanted to keep up the family/neighborhood traditions. But Category 4 status and forecast models pointing it right to NOLA got the best of us. On Friday, Gov. Jindal gave a very nervous press conference. On Saturday, Nagin did one of his patented freak-outs with his “Mother of all storms” quote. Aaron Broussard, seemingly again on the verge of tears, mandatorily evacuated the west bank; then later the entire east bank of Jefferson Parish.

Everyone was tough on looters. In Jefferson Parish, if you were out after curfew you would be considered a “suspicious person.” In Orleans, where 1500 National Guard troops have doubled the size of the NOPD, Nagin promised looters would “be taken straight to Angola…,”put in general population at the big house.

What happened? Rather than see what the hurricane would actually do, everyone left. By most accounts, getting out of the city wasn’t too bad. But bottlenecks at the I-55, I-12 and I-55 interchanges created parking lots. As of 10pm Sunday, there are reports of slow-moving, jammed-up traffic even as the first squall lines of Gustav’s outer bands approach.

Twitter is full of angry tweets. Angry because people feel forced out on an unplanned road trip, including pets, and forced to do so in many cases without too much spare cash. Now, they are angry because the pets and the kids are squalling because THEY’RE angry they’ve been stuck in a slow-moving car for 10 hours and aren’t any closer to their destination than they were 5 hours ago.

On a positive note, what these angry tweets can add up to are the tweets we never hope to read-the desperate tweets. “I’m on my roof, come get me!” tweets. Or, “I’m in my house, and the water is two feet now and keeps coming!” tweets. Or, “My parents are trapped. Can someone check on them?” tweets. A week after Katrina, I saved the HTML file of the nola.com forums that contained hundreds of such postings. I still have it, and read it when I feel able.

We don’t know what the future is going to hold. Is it, as NolaNotes asks, global warming? Is this going to keep happening every couple of years? Can we handle it if it does? If the city floods again, is it “game over”? Who knows. I just hope we don’t have a future with desperate tweets.

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5 Responses to Gustav: Angry Tweets & Tweets We Never Hope To Read

  1. saintseester on August 31, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    Thoughtful post – it is very good that twitter is helping you all stay connected; and, those of us who live farther away can use it, too. We stay connected with our loved ones, friends, family. Just a little tweet now and then to let us all know where they are and that they are okay relieves the scary thoughts.

  2. ender on August 31, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    great post.

    of course the chi-trib also quoted #markmayhewdouchebag too …

  3. Pete on August 31, 2008 at 10:59 pm

    Ender, it’s ok. Only quoted the db for what the db was going to do, not on character of city or its denizens.

  4. Nola on September 1, 2008 at 7:41 am

    Wow, Pete. Best post ever. Even if you took all mention of me out of it (actually, then it’d have been better ;0)

    I stumbled ya!

  5. […] acting as neighbors and doing what we can to calm nerves and keep accurate information afloat.  Pete too posts about the help Twitter has been in this time of trouble and concern.  Great post (if you ignore those parts referencing […]

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