Floyd drives traffic to two agency Web sites

Hurricane Floyd's brush with the East Coast last week led to record volumes of traffic at two agency World Wide Web sites.

The National Hurricane Center's Web site (www.nhc.noaa.gov) was inundated with people tracking Hurricane Floyd last week, receiving 12 million hits Sept. 14 and 15 million hits Sept. 15. The site typically gets a half million hits a day during the formation of a tropical depression.

The site provides links to satellite and weather radar imagery, as well as to forecasts, warning and analyses. Last month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which runs the center, said that it had beefed up its operation with a network of Web servers, so users could more quickly access information.

Interest in Hurricane Floyd also drove traffic at the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Web site to a new record. The site (www.fema.gov) received 3.3 million hits on Sept. 14, breaking the record of 2.6 million hits set on Sept. 13. That total broke the previous record of 2 million hits set last year when Hurricane Bonnie slammed into North Carolina.

People accessed the site to get the latest news and to get preparation information. "The system is linked to the center's servers and looks for new files and updates every 20 minutes and loads it onto our server," said Marc Wolfson, a spokesman and Web content manager for FEMA. "The weather sites get so bombarded. It helps take some pressure off them."

President Clinton visited FEMA headquarters on Sept. 16 and participated in a videoconference with the governors of South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. Clinton, the governors and the National Hurricane Center joined other FEMA offices in the conference call.

"Because of the technology, we are able to share the information quickly with [the states], and when everyone is seeing the same information and working off the same sheet of music it makes it a lot easier to cooperate," Wolfson said. "What it's doing for FEMA is raising the level of trust between federal and state government and sharing resources, so the states feel a lot more comfortable about working with us."

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