Cyclone Yasi destruction brought home on Facebook, Twitter

They were waiting and organizing even before the storm made landfall. Facebook messages and tweets sent out world-wide started a cascading effort of prayers, good wishes, advice and support from every corner of the planet. Social media has become an integral part of crisis management efforts

The numbers are staggering. 23,141 tweets from 10,000 individual users sent in the past 24 hours combined with 90,000 members joining Facebook page Cyclone Yasi Update are giving truly engaging definition to social media efforts.

“The Queensland government and in particular the Queensland Police have pioneered the use of social media in times of crisis. Updates on social media have been timely, accurate and sought to direct information to those most in need.” said Thomas Tudehope director of strategy and management for social media monitoring company SR7.

Many users added their personal experiences to the mix, giving the world a front row seat to the devastation as it occured. While traditional news sources have covered the story extensively, social media efforts extracted real-time accounts of the situation on the ground as it happened during the storm.

Some reports though turned out to be false.On Twitter, the most popular hash tags for users were #tcyasi, #cyclone and #roof. Facebook has been helpful but new groups poking fun at the situation such as Cyclone Yasi After Party have not been all that helpful nor is the ability to add Cyclone Yasi as a friend.

Reports last night that the roof of an evacuation center was being blown off by gale-force winds had to be ruled out.

User @CharlieMunsie posted: “#TCYasi Bad news just in. The evac centre in Innisfail has lost it’s roof. Has 500 ppl inside. No injuries to date but worst still to come.”

@ABCnorthqld followed with : “We are investigating reports that the Innisfail evacuation centre at the State College has lost its roof. We’ll let you know” followed by “a report about the Townsville evacuation centre losing its roof was untrue”.

A manipulated storm image showing a massive rain cloud coming in from the ocean was also circulated on Twitter.

@Bitfuzzy said “That’s a fake . . . it’s NOT a pic of Yasi”.

Now, after the storm has passed, Twitter and Facebook users are maintaining an unprecedented, ongoing dialogue with affected areas through users at the scene. The big difference was that websites could be accessed through the cell phones of those on the ground while power outages made it difficult if not impossible to watch television or listen to a radio.

Getty Image