Keeping an Eye on Hurricane Irene via Social Media and Open Data

Hurricane Irene August 26 NASA Satellite

A massive hurricane is swirling toward the eastern seaboard of the U.S. leaving 29 million people under a Hurricane warning on Friday night. Currently a category 2 storm, Hurricane Irene is forecast to straddle the coast before making landfall near New York City. Here in Southern California we don’t have many hurricane threats but then again it had been a while since the East Coast experienced a strong earthquake before this week. But in 1939 the only tropical storm to make landfall in California killed dozens at sea before coming ashore in Long Beach. 45 deaths were reported as a result of the flooding. And in 1858 a hurricane is said to have nearly made landfall off the San Diego coast, causing the 2011 equivalent of hundreds of millions of dollars before turning back out to sea.

But in the 19th and even the 20th centuries we did not have the advanced warning and communications systems that we have today. Without even grazing land, Hurricane Irene is making history — New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that today was the first time in the city’s history that mandatory evacuations had been ordered. About a quarter-million residents, primarily on the low-lying edges of Manhattan were urged to abandon their homes. New York’s subway system will be shut down Saturday at noon due to the threat of flooding.

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Iowa Under Water: Familiar Ground is Flooded

coralville iowa city floods 2008

In the months before my freshman year at the University of Iowa, the Iowa River flooded its banks, closing one dorm for the entire first semester and leaving me with 2 roommates in a double dorm — some doubles were turned into quads, in fact. Fifteen years later, and the flooding is worse — just look at the extensive and graphic slideshows at the Iowa City Press-Citizen website and this timeline of two freakish weeks of rain.

It was clear by midweek (last week) that the flooding would surpass the epic proportions of 1993 — in Cedar Rapids the river crested 5 feet higher than it did in ’93. But — in a typically pathetic show of domestic carelessness by the Bush Administration, it wasn’t until Friday that FEMA declared disaster areas in Cedar and Johnson county (Iowa’s governor declared 83 of Iowa’s 99 counties disaster areas by the end of the week). And today — Sunday — with supplies of drinkable water subsiding and key arteries closed in Iowa City/Coralville, FEMA does not even have an office established in the county. Not even a trailer. And the Iowa River may not crest until Monday night / Tuesday.

Now, summer school has been suspended, and at least 15 University of Iowa buildings have started to flood. Pictured above is the Taco Bell in Coralville that was the site of many cheap feeds and multiple refills of Pepsi back in my undergrad days.

I hope the university and the residents throughout the state get the help and relief they need — it doesn’t look pretty. More good (student) coverage at the Daily Iowan (w/ video too). Live video stream available via KCRG-Cedar Rapids. Viewer-contributed footage via KCRG / YouNews is here and below.

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FEMA: may they have management and not money!

Brownie did a heck of a job lying under oath today at a Congressional hearing. Tomorrow, the front page of the Washington Post will feature a story that slipped to everyone’s unconsiousness and SHOULD have been mentioned at the hearing.

Gulf CoastBrown seemed to be the only person convinced that FEMA was completely prepared for this, and it was only because of the lack of communication on the state and local levels that the rescue mission didn’t go smoothly.

Remember the Carnival cruise ships? Yes, thats right, in a panic on September 1, with the over 10,000 needing a destination upon the mandatory evacuation of the Superdome, FEMA demanded 10,000 berths on a full service cruise line.

From what kind of appendix could this sort of emergency plan have emerged…. Brownie??? The ships are now on 6-month lease to FEMA, who should just be voted off the island for incompetence and insulting waste of public, not to mention EMERGENCY funds.

The cruise ships are less than half full, but according to Senator Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) aides, if they were at capacity for the entire six months, the price per evacuee would total $1,275 a week based on the frantic 11th hour $236 million deal made between FEMA and Carnival Cruise Lines.

In freeing up cash for Katrina, the government has also slipped in additional measures to allow them to freely spend government money on their own interests, in the name of national security (46 states continue operating in a FEMA-designated state of emergency; perhaps this is where Brown comes up with his “150 disasters overseen”).

Sens. Coburn and Barack Obama (D-IL) are calling for a chief financial officer to oversee the spending of the Katrina funds…. Does there plea sound necessary enough to be answered?:

“When the federal government would actually save millions of dollars by forgoing the status quo and actually sending evacuees on a luxurious six-month cruise it is time to rethink how we are conducting oversight….”

Oh yeah, and please have mercy in these times of great tragedy and disaster, and lets all turn our heads to the $475 million Carnival already owes in delinquent back taxes…(thanks Perry Goldstein for your letter to the So. Florida Sun-Sentinel…. there will be time for FEMA to conduct its own investigation later. I’m sure they’ll find that they did a darn good heck of a job.

FEMA and Bush bans all Hurricane Katrina casualty photos – tightens noose on media

FEMA is blocking the press from taking and publishing any photos of the dead.

NOW, Bob Brigham reports that the media is BANNING all media from entering New Orleans!

Thanks to AmericaBlog for breaking this

September 4, 2005 — Reports continue that communications in and around New Orleans are being purposely jammed (and severed) by the US government (see Sep. 2 article below). The jamming is having an adverse impact on emergency, disaster recovery, and news media communications. The jamming is even affecting police radio frequencies in Jefferson Parish, according to an Australian news report. The President of Jefferson Parish Aaron Broussard told Meet the Press today that FEMA cut his parish’s emergency communications lines and he had to have his sheriff restore the severed lines and post armed deputies to ensure that FEMA did not try to cut the communications lines again. Broussard’s statement: “Yesterday–yesterday–FEMA comes in and cuts all of our emergency communication lines. They cut them without notice. Our sheriff, Harry Lee, goes back in, he reconnects the line. He posts armed guards on our line and says, ‘No one is getting near these lines.'”

http://www.waynemadsenreport.com/