Time on Twitter
Read the Time Magazine cover story. 2009-06-05

As a supercell storm moves through central Texas, a virtual storm mirrors it in the Twitterverse.

June 12th, 2009
Twitter Storm

Typically, a twitter storm is when mob outrage (or less frequently adulation) pulses through the Twitterverse. Twitter’s 140 character limit almost guarantees that emotion, not reasoned argument, is what trends. Whether it’s moms mad about a Motrin ad or Amazon users angry that ratings have been disabled on any book with perceived gay themes, we pass our passions along, and then our friends pass them along, and pretty soon the hive mind is buzzing with our indignation.

On the evening of June 11, 2009 a storm that had been brewing north of Austin since late afternoon developed into a supercell, “a system producing severe thunderstorms and featuring rotating winds sustained by a prolonged updraft that may result in hail or tornadoes.” The storm flipped small planes and mobile homes in Burnet, spawned possibly two tornadoes, and dumped hail in the same northwest corridor along Highway 183 which was just recovering from the worst hail storm in Austin’s history last March.

While this was happening, at my house, just south of the river, there was no indication a storm was on the way. At 8:30 PM the air was heavy and still. I was working at my computer unaware. Although it had been overcast until mid-afternoon, I wasn’t really expecting any rain. Remembering that some was in the forecast, I decided to check KXAN First Warning Weather and saw that a big red blob (indicating heavy rain) had entered Travis County. I immediately thought of Annieinaustin who’d suffered extensive hail damage in our last big storm. I flipped over to Twitter to see if it was raining where she was. A disappointing silence. But barron who lives northwest tweeted…
Storm Tweet Austin TX 2009-06-11

A few moments later, another north Austinite, punkgardener, wrote…
Storm Tweet Austin TX 2009-06-11

Well, something was happening. I flipped back to KXAN. The radar showed that the storm was in Travis County moving south towards us. Was there really a chance of rain for us? I sighed and figured it would probably skirt the downtown heat sink and we’d get nothing. At 8:44 PM, I received a call from Annieinaustin. She was offline and taking shelter in an interior room. They’d gotten some hail although not as large as in the March storm.

Looking north from my window I could see a wild lightning storm. I decided I’d better shut down my computer, too. Before I did, I posted an update tweet for her.

Then the fun started. I stood on my back porch, watching the storm move in and checking Twitter on my iPhone. Tweets started popping into my Twitterstream from all over Travis County. They expressed pensive moments wondering if the storm would leave some parts of Austin high and dry. Exultation over rain. Dismay over hail. Concern over the safety of friends and their gardens. Reports of power outages. Yes, maybe we sounded like a bunch of chattering tween girls on a class field trip but there was a real camaraderie in this shared experience. Rain in Austin in this drought is a pretty emotional experience, even without the drama of hail and tornadoes. We needed to share and we needed to know how our friends were doing.

Austinites weren’t the only people interested in our storm. Gardening friends in Indiana, Indygardener, and Oklahoma, reddirtramblin, cheered the rain on for us. They know how we Austin gardeners have been suffering in this drought.

As the storm moved on, we began checking for damage and comparing our rain gauge totals. This morning, I received one wistful tweet from mycornerofkaty wishing that the storms had made it to Katy, TX.
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