Blog you like a hurricane

Hurrican Superstorm Sandy has been forefront in the news, putting even Wall Street and the US Presidential Election on hold, the latter just a week away from Election Day. Every newspaper, newschannel and newsite is overwhelming flooded with updates and information about weather patterns. The most insightful information to come out of the disaster however, has been that of everyday people blogging about the disaster from their many individual points of view.

Twitter is rife with images of destruction; cranes toppling from skyscrapers, building facades collapsing into the street, cars floating down the main road. Just have a quick search of hashtag #Sandy and you’ll be confronted by the fears, well-wishes and documentation of one of the United States worst natural disasters. Seeing all of this, it is difficult to comprehend for those who have never experienced this kind of disaster before, the kind that not only destroys your home, but besieges you within.

Topical blogging site Thought Catalog has set up a LiveBlog on their site, where anyone can submit their images, videos and text, the blog post updating by the minute with first-hand information of what is happening, unfiltered by editorial. What you get is not only honest recounts of people witnessing and re-telling this chaos as it happens, but a barometer of people’s thoughts and emotions as they develop over the course of events.

Early on you see people taking (then) Hurricane Sandy in their stride with stereotypical New Yorker attitude; two old men continue to go fishing in the choppy rising river waters, sightsee’ers snapping photographs are forced away by Police, smokers huddle in alcoves trying to light their cigarettes in 36MPH winds. As the storm beings to settle in and people begin to realise it is going to be a long night they prepare for the oncoming siege like teenagers building a slumber-party fort; liquor store shelves are bare and the photos now consist of crates of wine and chilli cook-off pictures. People makes jokes about looting Xanax and the main concern about power being shut off is that they need to conserve laptop batteries for future posting. Later, as power transformers start to explode the tone of the situation seems to settle into people’s heads and the posts begin to lose their jovial tone. Hospitals lose backup generator power and patients are evacuated down stairwells. The sky is lit with explosions and fires. There is a sense of foreboding doom rather than panic, and people continue to try and make the best of the situation. Domino’s Pizza continue to deliver, their drivers risking life and limb to deliver cheesy crust salvation to those trapped and running low on food. Snow begins to set in and with no power to millions of New Yorker’s homes, many fear for who will make it through the night. As the brunt of the storm appears to die down or pass by, a strangely pissed-off calm settles across this miniature blogosphere. People are bored. They haven’t died but they’re still trapped, and probably running out of beer and chilli.

It’s fascinating to see how people’s instincts and reactions change in the face of impending, sudden and then post-oblivion. Bravado turns to fear turns to determination turns to irritation. What is most insightful of all is the honesty in this relatively anonymous microblogosphere. I’m sure there is an amount of bravado in the face of fear, but for the most part what you get is a unique look into how people really react during times of crisis, without the reshaping of information by the mainstream media into a dramatised, emotional and morbidly entertaining package for primetime viewing.

The internet has always featured eye-of-the-storm blogging (pardon the pun) be it the “Baghdad Blogger” who rose to fame during the recent conflict in Iraq and deposing of Saddam Hussein, or the Pakistani man who inadvertently broke the news of the death of Osama Bin Laden when he tweeted “Go away helicopter – before I take out my giant swatter :-/” as US forces stormed the terrorists compound. The phenomenon of the Thought Catalog LiveBlog is a leap forward from this, taking the lightning paced format of micro-blogging and presenting it like a political debate “worm”, showing the rise and fall of people’s hope and fears. People as a group seem to sense the importance of this and so conserve their laptop batteries, hunting down working internet connections to keep the information lines open and flowing.

Vincent is a late-twenty-something writer, battling the tail end of a quarter-life crisis with the help of bicycle rides, bed forts and eating French Toast for dinner. You can follow him @Vincent_Moleman and read his blog, Social Fumbling.

If you want to keep an eye on the event as the good blogging public of New York break the news, head over to