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A Social Savvy Snowmageddon

I'm from the South. Let's just put that out there now. We've had our dumps of snow here and there but they usually don't stick around too long. Since I moved up to Chicago almost two years ago, we've had snows here on a consistent basis that would have cancelled school in my hometown. Unlike where I'm from, if there's a lot of snow coming to Chicago, nobody really seems to care. But when my neighbors start to buy out milk and bread in my local Jewel Osco, I knew something was up.

We got hammered with snow. Close to 20 inches around my block and 60-70 mph wind gusts near Lake Michigan (which also happens to be where I live). Seeing how I had a normal one hour commute to the office normally, I worked from the home office today. The TV story above tells you a lot about the storm. Lake Shore Drive shut down. Lake Shore Drive. I walked out in the middle of that road today on my "lunch break" for the first time in my life. It's hands down one of the busiest roads in the city. Legit.

Through this, I learned how social tools were leveraged to help people out and share what was going on. Here are a couple of observations.

RedEye: A local publication of the Tribune, they did a fantastic job keeping people posted. Their Twitter stream (@redeyechicago) and snow pictures were a great tool to show others who may have not made it out what was going on. Did they have journalists out there braving the elements? Maybe. However, most of their content came in the form of reader submitted photos, videos and quotes. Props to them leveraging their audience to help people stay in the know (and probably boost their own web ratings in the process).

Twitter: Using a crowdsourced hashtag #SNOMG generated through RedEye votes, Twitter was leveraged for people posting pics of being stranded on Lake Shore Drive, updates, warnings and alerts. It was actually through this hashtag that I learned of Wrigley Field getting a panel blown off of it. It became so popular that Lake Shore Drive and Wrigley Field were trending topics for a while. (Other hashtag ideas included #Snowmageddon, #Snopocalypse, #SnotoriousB.I.G. #Snoprah etc).

YouTube: Several user videos went viral showing how much the snow had accumulated in their neighborhoods and how strong the wind actually was. My own BrainWads YouTube channel has footage on it in front of my apartment building when the wind was hitting 50-60 mph gusts.

Google Voice: This was a personal thing for me. With a winter storm comes the risk of power outages. Knowing that my HTC Evo doesn't exactly hold great battery, I leveraged my Google Voice number to keep in touch with family back south using my computer. That way, if power went out, I wouldn't be without power AND a dead phone battery.

Crowd-Sourced Reporting: Found this link via @heathergately's Twitter stream. There was a site online where users could post up where problem areas where around the city to keep people in the know of places to avoid or what was going on in certain areas. A great use of social media on this page.

If you want to see more of my own footage, check out my Flickr album or YouTube channel. Some shots I got on a walkabout this afternoon.

Fellow winter weather warriors: how else did you all see emerging media being used this week during the blizzard?

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