Public, Local Governments Utilize Social Media for Storm-Related Information

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The Tuesday after Irma moved out of South Florida, Wilton Manors resident Kevin Knorr went looking for gas. “I had been driving around earlier in the day [Tuesday] looking for it but all I found was lines.”

Then his partner, Bill Woeppel, saw a Facebook post by Wilton Manors resident Eric Reivik about a gas truck at the Chevron on Wilton Drive. Without social media, Knorr said he would have probably used more gas looking for stations with fuel.

It was a story that repeated itself throughout Wilton Manors and the rest of South Florida, before and after the storm. People used social media to disseminate information about gas, store openings and closings, food and ice deliveries, hurricane survival tips, and more. Catherine Cerniglia, owner of The Over Easy Café on Oakland Park Boulevard, used Facebook Wednesday afternoon to announce she was open with a “limited menu.”

Facebook Marketplace, a feature of the social media site used to sell a variety of items, was also utilized for hurricane purposes. People posted pictures of generators, shutters, and other items for sale. Pictures of free items, such as sand for sandbags, were also posted.

Local governments and law enforcement agencies also got in on the act. Wilton Manors officials, among other things, used the city’s social media platforms to let residents know they weren’t under a boil water alert. “It’s been invaluable to us. It’s a tool we didn’t have available after Hurricane Wilma,” said City Manager Leigh Ann Henderson. It’s also one that’s helped compensate for the temporary loss of city phone lines.

The city has also used social media to send out information on trash pickup, debris removal, free food given by the Salvation Army on Wednesday at The Shoppes of Wilton Manors, and curfews.

Henderson said the city may continue with the 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew imposed previously. She said it will depend on the power situation. As of Tuesday night, Henderson said she was informed by FPL that only 190 customers in the city, out of 7,800, had power. On Wednesday morning, she said it was 2,300. By Wednesday afternoon it was 2,670 with power “We have trucks all throughout the city. I’m hopeful that number is going to grow pretty quickly.”

That lack of power is what made the city decide to impose a curfew.

“The traffic signals are not working. Only three in the city are working. And there are no street lights. The neighborhoods are very dark. It is pitch black. It also creates an opportunity with crime.”

On its own social media platforms, FPL announced that it estimates power will be restored to all East Coast customers by the end of the weekend. “We understand how important it is for you to get restoration information. We have a workforce of more than 21,500 employees and contractors from nearly 30 states and Canada, including as far away as California, working 24/7 to restore service following widespread damage.”


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