Ruth Igielnik woke up Monday morning in her Washington, D.C., home and immediately checked the U.S. Office of Personnel Management's Twitter feed, where she found out her office would be closed because of Hurricane Sandy.

She did what a lot of people probably did on Monday: She stayed in bed.

Igielnik set her computer on her lap and kept an eye on Facebook and Twitter. She also was texting her younger brother, who is studying in New York City. And she was refreshing an interactive map of the storm, because her boyfriend was stranded in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

As Sandy unfolded, residents up and down the East Coast followed the storm every step of the way, thanks to social media and easily available online tools.

Many government officials and agencies, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, have taken full advantage of the power of these social networks, using them to keep people updated on storm developments. FEMA on Monday morning tweeted to more than 157,000 followers that phone lines "may be congested during/after #Sandy. Let loved one know you are OK by sending a text or updating your social networks."

FEMA administrator Craig Fugate has been tweeting about the storm periodically for about a week, providing more than 30,000 people with tips and links to help people sift through all the news about Sandy.

The National Weather Service also updates its Twitter feed with information from the National Hurricane Center, but NSW's Facebook page appears to have more traction, with more than 100 people clicking "like" on every post.


Advertisement

Facebook has been especially useful for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which has been updating users with compelling pictures as well as satellite images and storm-tracking diagrams of Sandy.

Kaitlin Kuhlthau, a New Jersey native who is working on her master's degree in Surrey, England, has most of her family in Monmouth Beach, N.J., and has been using Facebook as the main source of communication with her family. She said Monmouth Beach, which is at sea level, was evacuated, but her family members decided to stay. Their biggest concern, she said, was how long they would have power.

"My mom has been keeping herself up to date with the Jersey Shore hurricane news via Facebook," Kuhlthau said. "And it's amazing how our current media is able to keep us so up to date all the time. I'm in a different country and time zone and still feel like I'm living the experience in the moment it's all happening."

Through Google, people can find another interactive map that allows them to track the storm and gives information of the affected areas. The map also points people to the nearest shelter.

For cell phones and tablets, there are several applications that can be downloaded, such as Hurricane Tracker and Hurricane HD. Through both applications, people have access to animated maps that are tracking the storm.

People have also been using the American Red Cross' application, The Hurricane, to update Twitter and Facebook, as well as to email and text family and friends that they are safe.

AccuWeather.com, a weather forecast website, is using Google+ to connect with their users and answer any questions they may have for meteorologists.