2011 Hurricane Irene

2011 Hurricane Irene

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Hurricane Irene is a tropical cyclone that landed on the coast of North Carolina on August 28th, 2011 and moved across the eastern coastline of the United States. Due to the strength of the storm and its historical nature as the first hurricane to make landfall on the east coast since the 1930s, onilne discussions and gossips about Hurricane Irene dominated the U.S. news media as well as social networking sites and blogs on the web.


Hurricane Irene originally developed in the Caribbean on August 20th, 2011, which prompted the National Hurricane Center to initiate U.S. public advisories on the tropical cyclone. The storm consecutively grew in scale and size as it travelled across the region, inflicting sizable destruction and damages. On August 22nd, the storm was upgraded to a Hurricane Category 1 and escalated into a Hurricane Category 3 on August 24th as it approached the U.S. coast.


Internet Tracking Tools

NASA[5] provided images of the hurricane captured by their satellite controlled Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer. Google enabled the images to be viewed in an overlay KML[6] file for their Google Earth software that could be used with other Google Earth weather tools to track the hurricane in real-time.[7]

On Twitter

Beginning on August 26th, 2011, numerous states across the country issued hurricane warnings and state of emergency while the news media reported on the hurricane's expected route along the major cities in the east coast. On August 27th, seven out of nine tweets in New York region were related to Hurricane Irene, including #HurricanePlaylist, #followMeIrene, Category 1, Con Ed, Virginia Beach, Mayor Bloomberg and Zone C. According to The Daily Mail[1], several fake Twitter accounts emerged purporting to be the dreadful Hurricane Irene as well, such as @Irene[2] which gained nearly 36,000 followers since its debut; many of them requested follow-backs from @Irene with the hashtag #FollowMeIrene.

Other Hurricane-related hastag trends included #ReplaceMovieTitleWithIrene (ex: "There’s Something About Irene") and #HurricaneIrenePlaylist (ex: "Umbrella" by Rhianna / "You Spin Me Right Round" by Dead or Alive).

"Come On, Irene"

On August 25th, 2011, YouTuber PajaroLTD[3] posted a musical tribute to the impending Hurricane Irene with a parody rendition of Dexy's Midnight Runners' 80s popular hit "Come on, Eileen." Meanwhile, the phrase was also used as headlines for several news articles reporting on the hurricane. As of 9:30pm August 28th, the video has gained over 110,900 views:

Chris Christie's News Conference

On August 26th, 2011, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie gave a news conference concerning Hurricane Irene. He advised all to "…don't react – think. Think about what you need to do to protect your life and the life of your family." However, after many stern warnings, Christie told those who were still on the beach at Asbury Park:

"Get the hell off the beach in Asbury Park and get out. You're done, it's 4:30, you've maximized your tan. Get off the beach."

The footage of the conference was uploaded onto his YouTube account GovChristie[4] and he also made this announcement via his Twitter handle @govchristie, which quickly began trending.

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Weather Channel Streaker

On August 27th, a Weather Channel news reporter was video-bombed by a group of streakers during a live report from Virginia Beach on the impending hurricane. The footage was subsequently uploaded by YouTuber BlackIrish44 and has been covered by BoingBoing. In less than 24 hours of its upload, the video has gained over 177,000 views.

CBS News Drunk Girl Interview

On August 28th, the Huffington Post[8] posted an article featuring a video of an inebriated young woman being interviewed by CBS news during the hurricane. The video was uploaded to YouTube by PantlessSuperstar83, and received 113,863 views as of August 29th.

Laundry Room Viking

Laundry Room Viking is an advice animal image macro series based on a Facebook photograph of a guy treading his way through a flooded laundry room following the landfall of Hurricane Irene in August 2011. Echoing the original caption "do the laundry they said, it will be fun they said," the series usually juxtaposes an overly optimistic statement quoted by someone else against the undesirable conditions in reality.


News Media Analysis

Several articles questioning whether or not the hurricane had been overhyped were published on various blogs and news outlets. Prior to the arrival of Irene on August 26th, Forbes[10] writer Patrick Michaels wrote an article outlining how the storm became a media sensation after the Weather Channel's advertising rates started rapidly increasing. Immediately after the storm, The Daily Beast[11] criticized cable news outlets for frightening the public:

Someone has to say it: cable news was utterly swept away by the notion that Irene would turn out to be Armageddon. National news organizations morphed into local eyewitness-news operations, going wall to wall for days with dire warnings about what would turn out to be a Category 1 hurricane, the lowest possible ranking.

Mediaite[9] reported that the storm resulted in $7 billion dollars worth in economic losses, and a substantial amount may have been related to wasteful preparations.

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