Hurricane center tries out Facebook, Twitter

The Commerce Department’s National Hurricane Center kicked off the start of the 2011 hurricane season June 1 with a Facebook and Twitter social media presence for the first time and has already attracted thousands of followers and hundreds of comments.

The center describes its social networking activity as experimental for now, even as it is expanding those roles.

“As we come up on the eve of the start of the Atlantic hurricane season, [this is] just another reminder of how we're handling questions posted to Facebook,” center officials said on their Facebook page May 31. “We're going to field as many general questions as possible, but we can't effectively use this forum to provide weather forecasts.” The center referred readers to for that purpose.

Related stories:

Agencies update websites in preparation for Hurricane Earl

Social networkers respond to Hurricane Gustav

Ed Rappaport, the center’s deputy director, also recently addressed social media’s possibilities for improving the agency’s disaster warnings and communications with the public, but he said there are uncertainties about its effectiveness.

Social media is “certainly an option, but we need to know more about what is required to get an effective public response to the threat of a hurricane,” Rappaport said in a June 1 statement. “There are sociological and science factors involved. It's hard to accurately forecast what the weather will do. It's harder to accurately forecast what people will do. We need to keep working to learn more about both processes.”

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service operates the hurricane center in Miami. It is listed on its Facebook page as the NOAA NWS National Hurricane Center.

The center launched its Facebook page in January as a pilot project.

“Facebook is an experiment for the National Hurricane Center,” officials wrote in their introductory message. “We're interested in learning how we can make it work best, both for NHC and for you.”

Similarly, the center’s two new Twitter feeds — one for the Atlantic Ocean and another for the Pacific — were launched June 1 to coincide with the start of the hurricane season. The agency described them as a prototype effort.

“The National Hurricane Center presence on Twitter is a prototype to help decision-makers and the public receive notifications of the very latest on hazardous tropical weather systems,” according to a statement on the center’s website.

As of June 3, the center’s Facebook page had 17,331 followers. Its Atlantic Ocean Twitter feed had 2,344 followers, and the Pacific Ocean feed had 229 followers.

Center officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.


  • 2018 Fed 100

    The 2018 Federal 100

    This year's Fed 100 winners show just how much committed and talented individuals can accomplish in federal IT. Read their profiles to learn more!

  • Census
    How tech can save money for 2020 census

    Trump campaign taps census question as a fund-raising tool

    A fundraising email for the Trump-Pence reelection campaign is trying to get supporters behind a controversial change to the census -- asking respondents whether or not they are U.S. citizens.

  • Cloud
    DOD cloud

    DOD's latest cloud moves leave plenty of questions

    Speculation is still swirling about the implications of the draft solicitation for JEDI -- and about why a separate agreement for cloud-migration services was scaled back so dramatically.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.