Covering a Natural Disaster in Social Media – the Mile-Wide Tornado

The following post is courtesy of Pam McBride.

The devastation that has hit the Southern US states, known as the “mile-wide tornado” has left destruction across at least six states including Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, Virginia and Kentucky.  Using MAP, our social media monitoring and analysis platform, we decided to take a look at the conversations surrounding Tornadoes over the past year and more closely over the last 72 hours.  According to the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center, there have been 297 confirmed tornadoes this month, breaking a 36 year-old record and the death toll has now reached 319 across the six states.

Over the last year, MAP found 498,156 blog mentions, 263,967 news mentions, 2.2 million tweets and 453,366 forum postings.

Over the last 72 hours, MAP found 20,048 blog mentions, 25,786 new mentions, 256,131 tweets and 26,479 forum postings.

Other than two relatively minor spikes in 2010 (the reference was some severe storms), this recent tornado has generated the most talk across a diverse set of social media.   Within the blogosphere our popularity chart shows a spike starting on April 26, when people started to talk about the tornado that hit Arkansas.

What was also a point of interest was how geographically dispersed the blog posts were.  Aside from the United States, there appears to be a heavy concentration of coverage in Europe and parts of South America from the past 72 hours.

Key conversations from blog posts uncovered what appear to be references to warnings and with the strength and devastation caused by this tornado, a reference of significance to the tornado of 1932.

Looking at our word cloud from blogs, the conversations appear to focus on the event itself and the locations of the tornado.

While the word cloud from Twitter, in addition to tornado, seems to have a strong focus on donations and The Red Cross – perhaps an indication of using this form of social media for a compassionate cause.  The 90999 is the text handle for donating directly to The Red Cross.

And as anticipated, an event of this magnitude is covered by numerous traditional media outlets as well.  The Yahoo.com news portal had 1,434 articles in 72 hours and was by far the top media source, while bizjournals.com had 310 and both allvoices and CNN were well over 200.