Tonight a bunch of people and I learned, once again, the power of the Internet. A storm became unexpectedly severe and plowed its way through Dorchester and Berkeley counties this evening. I went live on a Charleston weather-themed Ustream channel with the SuperDeeDooperDoppler and, for over two hours, was able to give a rundown of what the storm was doing at a particular time and was able to get people to safety when the storm was at its worst, whether it was spewing 60+ MPH gusts in downtown Summerville or chucking golf-ball size hail in Ridgeville. I was able to get feedback in real time in the chat room that Ustream supplied, and that part rocked most of all. One-way weather broadcasts from television don’t give anybody that kind of luxury at all, especially when the storm knocks television out. People were able to relay their reports in real-time and that was excellent. In a way, I’m hoping it stays clear for a bit — two hours of wall-to-wall is probably enough after a long day at work. :) It just felt good to be able to help people.
Imagine what I would have done with Ustream during Ernesto in August 2006, when I live-blogged for three days every advisory that came down with predictions and such. A part of me almost can’t wait for another storm now!
This summer I’m looking to significantly expand my weather outlet, to the point where it will likely be spun off from this site under its own domain. One of the pieces of this is somewhat in play now as I’ve created a Charleston Weather Twitter account to relay conditions, forecasts, and advisories. I wouldn’t rely on it for timeliness right now, though — it’s using Twitterfeed to shoot the information through, so there is a giant delay between checking feeds. I still need to write a proper bot for it, which I’m hoping to tackle this month. The Ustream channel is another piece of the puzzle. I plan to offer up some sort of rotating feature with radar and other things once I can find a box to dedicate to it. I will also use the Ustream channel for periodic weather reports as well as coverage during severe weather situations.
Sadly, the most obvious piece of the puzzle, my weather station, won’t be around much longer. I’m moving in a few weeks, which will force me to end my station downtown after two fantastic years. I’m not sure if I will bring it up yet in my new location (likely to be west of the Ashley), so my backyard conditions may come to an end. However, there are other stations out there, and I’m not overly concerned with taking mine down knowing that others will be able to spring up in my place.
I wanted to write more about my setup here, but I’m getting pretty tired; that will be for a later post.
I’m not sure what I’m on to here, but I can’t help but think it’s a good thing that will enhance weather awareness and, more importantly, explore how the social media space can be used to disseminate important information in an interactive manner.