Social media keeps the snowbound connected

When Snowmageddon Part I hit, wired Atlantans came to Michelle Sollicito’s brand-new Facebook page in a panic. This time, it was more like a gathering of old friends.

Sollicito launched the page, Snowed Out Atlanta, when a two-inch blizzard paralyzed the metro area at the end of January.

“It just grew really quickly because people were helping people,” she said. “We had people with four-wheel drive and Jeeps going out to help people; 911 wasn’t even responding. It was a really efficient, effective way to get to people.”

This time around, the group of more than 50,000 members was able to connect immediately. Some posts conveyed serious issues, as people sought help checking on elderly relatives or rounding up neighbors with chainsaws to attack fallen tree limbs. Other members sought updates on road conditions or passed on handy tips for dealing with a prolonged power outage. (Did you know a crayon will burn like a candle in a pinch?)

“We started a little task force,” said Sollicito, a website designer who is brainstorming with first responders and the techno-savvy. “Gov. (Nathan) Deal has his task force and I have mine.”

Sollicito points to the unimpressive official response to Atlanta’s first winter disaster for the fast growth of her Snowed Out Atlanta page.

“I think they’re getting better,” she said of the more robust storm preparation efforts this time around. “I know government works quite slowly and change is difficult.” Sollicito is already looking ahead to help connect Atlantans during other weather emergencies, such as warm-weather tornadoes.

Social media is effective because it updates instant by instant. Twitter and Facebook became valuable informational tools for Marc Tozer of Stone Mountain. He lost power at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday and social media kept him updated on weather conditions and recovery efforts.

“Since we can get online with our cells and have back up chargers, it has become our life blood right now,” Tozer said. “By using Facebook and Twitter we can keep up with everything going on.”

Facebook led to a heartwarming moment on a frigid day of ice and snow when the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office posted a photo of a dog they found wandering on Millwood Road. A few hours later, the department’s page posted a photo of Deputy Terri Wright and Deputy Eric Johnson reuniting Sadie the dog with her owner, Mary Bennett.

“Thank you both and the FCSO and Animal Control so much,” a relieved Bennett posted later. “Truly y’all are heroes!”

Cobb County resident Susan Lentz said social media helped her digest the steady torrent of storm updates from various sources at once. Instead of constantly changing the radio or television dial, she was able to easily monitor posts from a slew of media sources.

“I’ve constantly checked all news sites I follow to stay updated on the current conditions,” she said. “I have truly been so thankful for Twitter and other social media sites during this ice and winter storm.”

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