“Hurricane Irene has an amazing publicist,” tweeted comedian Andy Borowitz (@BorowitzReport) on Friday. At a speed of roughly 100 new tweets per minute, Ms. Irene may be the first hurricane to really understand the power of social media.
As the Eastern Seaboard braces for what is expected to be a Category 1 hurricane, New York City for the first time is being partially evacuated.
“Once the people have been evacuated from Manhattan, it’s a perfectly pleasant place to live,” tweeted Borowitz late Friday night.Many people are glued to the news as the spiral creeps northward, so far wiping out the end of a pier at Atlantic Beach in North Carolina. Twitter brings out the inner snarky media critic in everyone:
NPR’s MonkeySee (@nprmonkeysee): “Feel nothing but sympathy for reporter who says, “The end of the pier blew off, so they’ll either have to rebuild it or…make it shorter.”
Jim Gaffigan (@JimGaffigan): “It’s so obvious The @WeatherChannel is pro hurricane. Fair and balanced my ass.”
Anticipation makes for twitchy thumbs as urbanites ponder how to deal with a pending hurricane:
“My doorman advised me to clear everything away from my windows. Which means I now have to clean. Ugh,” @Arterbery, Saturday, 10AM.
“Evacuating BK with a sixpack, 2 bottles of wine, and the last of my Advil,” @sarahvnyc, Friday night.
“Ok my dad just called. Says I need to buy ‘water, canned food, wine & magazines’. Now I’m scared (but I like his priorities),” @IntoTheGloss, 9AM, Saturday.
“Do calories ingested during #hurricaneirene count as much as calories ingested during other times?” @xoamelia, 10AM, Saturday. Shopaholics try to turn the wrath of Irene into a summons to do what they do best:
“Could definitely use this trench by @BurberryLondon,” tweeted @lovelymli at 11Am on Saturday.
A gift shop in Kenvil, New Jersey saw an opportunity to sell apple-cider and balsam-and-cedar scented candles ($25) to hurricane survivalists: “Candles are 25% off today only! #hurricaneirene,” tweeted @diannsgifts at 11AM on Saturday.The hoarding impulse was not limited to people in the hurricane’s path: “With all the coverage of #hurricaneIrene I have an urge to stock up on water, canned food and candles. I am in Europe. I think I’m safe,” tweeted @rayinprague, Saturday 11AM.The specter of Hurricane Katrina still haunts.
“I promise that I will behave like an overprivileged white man who thinks he understands what Katrina victims went through,” tweeted @rudepundit on Friday.
One of the most retweeted #HurricaneIrene messages – a joke – references Kayne West, who made his presence known both during the aftermath of Katrina and the 2009 Grammy Awards. @ghettohurricanenames quipped, “yo irene ima let u finish but katrina was the best hurricane ever!”
The bon mot of the moment came from @realdonjamieson on Friday: “If Hurricane Irene wipes out Long Island will Kanye West go on tv & say Barack Obama doesn’t care about white people?”
8PM Saturday night.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Twitter account has racked up over 67,000 followers.
Giving it a run for its money is the mock-Twitter account @HurriicaneIrene (note the alternative spelling) with 47,000 followers. Written from the perspective of the hurricane herself, @HurriicaneIrene posts things like, “I expect all the babies that are made tonight to be named after me,” and “West Coast better watch out for my brother Hurricane Tupac.”
It also attracts comments from followers. “@HurriicaneIrene I WAS ONE OF UR FIRST 5,000 FOLLERS AND U STILL HAVEN’T FOLLOWED ME!!!,” tweeted @JordanStrop at 1PM on Saturday.
By early Saturday afternoon, many people were taking Hurricane Irene personally.
“Me and #HurricaneIrene bouta get crunk 2nyte,” @MickeyBsWorld.
“#HurricaneIrene you ignorant slut, this isn’t New Orleans. I’m going for a run right in your face,” @McCarthy_12.
“Ok I am now bored, hurry up and go away #hurricaneirene,” @krwoodward.
Hurricane Irene has had at least one hoax. A twitpic of a shark swimming through a deeply flooded street in Puerto Rico as been identified as a fake.
The Twittersphere acknowledged the estimated 14 people who reportedly died during Hurricane Irene over the last 24 hours, by asking followers to retweet a message “out of respect.”
Some caught the force of the storm (“Getting ready to go cut my friend’s tree off his fence,” @BruvahTeeRoy, Sunday, 12:45), others were disappointed that it was not as spectacular as hyped: “Please text HURRICANEIRENE to 50999 to donate $1 toward all these friggen canned peaches I bought that I’m not gonna eat now,” @RandyRainbow, Sunday, 12:30.
If there was a Twitter star during the storm, it was @HurriicaneIrene (note the alternative spelling). Created on Friday night, the joke account racked up almost 69,000 followers at its height early Sunday morning. That’s more than the FEMA site (68,454 followers), which featured actual storm news.
Written from the perspective of the storm herself (“Everyone is gonna be so fat and hungover by the time I’m done”), the account made light of the category 1 storm slowly creeping up the east coast. During a marathon tweeting session, the creator posted messages every few minutes for at least 24 hours. At around 11AM on Sunday morning, the creator, like the storm, pooped out. “I ran out of Irene puns 2 hours ago.”
On Sunday morning the creator of the account changed its name to @AGuyWithNoLife, and is now telling jokes that would have been groaners even on the vaudeville circuit: “I broke up with my crosseyed girlfriend today … [she] was seeing someone else.”
Since the change, at least 2000 followers have “unfollowed” him. Fame blows with the wind.