Facebook and flooding: Building communities after disaster strikes

I’ve just returned from a holiday in the US. I’d planned to tour New York state, visiting some old friends and seeing the sights.  I’d planned my tour a while ago.  I’d booked Inns and hotels around the state and I was planning a driving tour.  I love driving. I love driving in the US very much.

I hadn’t planned for Hurricane Irene though.

2 of the places I’d planned to visit were in towns that had been completely devastated by rainwater and flooding as the water rushed down from the mountains.  I monitored Twitter and Facebook to see if the Inns I’d booked were actually still there – still operating, and that they had power and water.

I drove to Windham, one of the most frightening drives I’ve ever done.  Road after road was closed, or blocked by debris.  My sat nav was begging me to do a U turn as I made detour after detour.  I wanted to drive to a place where the tarmac on the roads were still there. The town of Windham had been deluged and to get there I had to drive across a bridge where the boiling brown flood water was tossing trees around like matches only a foot below the bridge itself.  Terrifying..

When I got to Windham they were clearing the debris from the remnants of their homes caused by the raging river (see the video). Fortunately, my inn was on the hill at the top of this road, and power and water was on. The devastation in Main street was truly horrible…

Wilmington, Vermont was my next stop.  I had to detour about 65 miles to go around the blocked roads and persuade the National guard to let me through.  My hotel was the first hotel in the town, undamaged by the flood.  I’d chosen one up on a hill as the online image looked nice.

There, I found an incredible sense of community. People not affected by the flood were all pulling together and offering help via Facebook . Sites like the VT flood relief fund were quick to offer help for the businesses on Main street that had been devastated by the swollen river which had rushed through the ground floor taking everything with it.  A benefit concert, floodstock was created to raise funds for those displaced by the weather.

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A huge thanks to the Wilmington Inn and Tavern for keeping the hotel open and community spirit open (the Inn is on the left of this image by the finger and was the only place in town that wasn’t flooded..

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… but by keeping everyone in touch through Facebook and Twitter, they certainly kept everyone connected, informed, and got help to those who needed it…

All through social media… or should I say – community media.  Well done to all …