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Technology & Hurricane Prediction and Recovery

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It’s fair to say that the story of the past few weeks has been rather stormy– in a quite literal sense. The memory of Hurricane Harvey seems several years ago, when it’s actually just a few months; but Harvey, which tore through Houston, was the harbinger of what was to come.

Hot on Harvey’s heels were major hurricane events Irma, Jose, and Maria. These storms have wreaked havoc, cost lives, and caused huge logistical challenges due to so many areas needing help at the same time.

As one might expect in 2017, technology has a huge role to play in hurricane events for the future. This is both of in terms of the prediction, the safety warnings that can be issued, and what happens in the aftermath. Given that hurricanes are set to become a more regular feature of thousands of American’s lives, what role might tech have to play in shaping what looks to be a very stormy future?

Prediction Is Better Than Ever…

With the major Atlantic storms this season, there has been plenty of forewarning. Unlike tornadoes — which can form in a matter of seconds — hurricanes can be identified when they are out at sea, while they’re at their strongest. Meteorologists are able to then predict when and where landfall is likely to occur.

Sometimes, this tech can be a cause for concern without reason. Much was made of how three huge hurricanes were found in the Atlantic at the same time; Irma, Jose, and Katia. Many in hurricane-prone areas panicked at the idea of dealing with successive blows, but ultimately, Jose and Katia did not land the blows that these early warnings suggested.

While that is a cause for relief, it nevertheless suggests that scaremongering on behalf of the media will play a part in future hurricane seasons. Media companies might not understand the data the tech is telling them, and have the potential to cause panic by uneducated reporting. It’s important to bear in mind that over-sea hurricanes are incredibly common, and not assume they will hit land.

… Never Forget Hurricanes Can Change

While they may not be as violent as their tornadic cousins, hurricanes can and do change course even in short spaces of time. While there is relatively little that can be done to predict this, technology has at least ensured people are more up-to-date than ever if something does change rapidly. The spread of news on social media regarding Irma, for example, led to Miami being rendered a ghost town– one of the most complete evacuations of the modern era.

In The Aftermath

Q-Link CEO Issa Asad can be proud of the role Lifeline — which provides cellphones to low-income families — played in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Rather than be stranded from contacting friends and family by a lack of minutes or call credit, people were able to use the Lifeline phones to reassure relatives they were safe. The service plans to roll out to Florida in future, which could make a huge difference for those in hurricane-impacted areas.

Furthermore, Facebook once again activated its “I’m safe” service during Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Irma in Florida. While this service is always vulnerable to errors, and a call is always going to be the best method of reassurance, this at least provides some peace of mind to friends and family who have loved ones in the eye of the storm.

Hurricanes are changing and becoming more severe, but it looks like technology will be able to play a part in mitigating the human cost.

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