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Digital Community in the Superstorm of 2011

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 5:51 PM

It was a difficult drive back last Sunday after visiting my father. We drove through the Adirondack Mountains to Montreal where my husband, who had a meeting in Montreal on Monday, got me to the bus station so that I could take a bus to Sherbrooke. The road conditions were awful in the mountains of New York, and there was a bad accident in which people who had gotten out of their cars were hit by oncoming traffic. Once I was safe at home, the Environment Canada weather warnings made me nervous about what I was to face the next day.

Usually during a snowstorm, I can hear a snow plow going by between 5:00 and 6:00, but all was deadly quiet outside. I got up, ready to walk my dogs and go to work. When I opened my door, snow tumbled in. My car was buried under snow and my driveway was nowhere to be seen. I let the dogs out as I shovelled snow away from my front and back doors and tried to get the excess off my car. One look told me that I wasn’t going anywhere.

Later, I called my colleagues and found out that my employer was telling people who couldn’t make it in to stay home. I called my trusty driveway plow-man and chatted with his wife. He’d been out since 2:00 in the morning, and even the city plow couldn’t traverse some of the snow-covered streets.

I was snowed in and alone. Strangely enough, this made me feel a bit panicky and claustrophobic. Ever the city slicker, I couldn’t believe that I was stuck, but my power was on and my Facebook was working. I was not alone. My friends were online, The Record was online and Sharon McCully was online:

The Record Many Record carriers were unable to get out their own doors to get to yours this morning so your Record may not be delivered this morning. 8:02 AM

The Record The City of Sherbrooke has issued a notice that city offices will be closed today. Sidewalks will not be plowed and there will not be a garbage collection - it will be postponed till Friday. Essential services will be maintained. The city has set up an emergency service centre to respond to situations requiring fire protection and police services, public works. 8:03 AM

The Record Due to the continuing snowfall, and the risk to our employees who would have to travel to work, The Record will not publish today. Please see Wednesday's Record for full storm coverage as well as all the news and continue to watch The Record's Facebook page for breaking news and storm updates. 11:39 AM

All day long, I read Sharon’s and The Record’s posts and felt that I was in touch with what was going on. My friends posted photos and chatted back and forth with the latest measurement of snow from their backyards along with funny stories and words of encouragement. Meanwhile, I waited for my husband who insisted on driving home. My friends were sending me messages telling me exactly what to say to him in order to get him to turn around. He wouldn’t listen. Four hours later, when my husband finally made it up the street after being detoured by a stuck tractor-trailer in Rock Forest, I sheepishly posted the news that he was home and received lots of Hurrah’s and “likes,” as in people who liked the news that my husband was home. It seemed strange to him that I would post his doings on Facebook (he’s getting used to me telling tales in The Record), yet at a time like that, the commiseration of my Facebook friends was a wonderful support.

I think that Monday was a good example of what a digital community is. Sharon got the latest out to us on what was going on in Sherbrooke and friends did what friends do best, showing their concern and sharing the inevitable photo. Many people knock Facebook, but I believe that Monday was a great example of social networking at its best. Thanks, Sharon!


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