In the Eye of a Hurricane

In case you've been living under a rock, there was a massive hurricane that impacted the Gulf Coast (Hurricane Harvey) and now another even bigger storm heading toward southern Florida (Hurricane Irma). I've now gotten to the point where I've typed the word hurricane too many times; so much so that I'm starting to doubt that I'm spelling it correctly.

I knew some people in Harvey's path but most of my family could potentially be in Irma's path so it's more top of mind for me. I haven't yet turned on the (cable) news because I have a feeling it's going to be devastation porn so, in order to get a sense of where this storm is going, I've been looking at my Weather Underground app (which I love) that has a hurricane tracker and also googling a bit for pieces of information here and there.

And this is where technology gets a little weird.

Google has these "Public Alerts" pages which are landing pages with information from the National Weather Service and other pieces of information sprinkled in a sidebar. The page I'm looking at has a module to pull in tweets which I can understand having some value as, while news media may be slow to cover what's happening in areas impacted, folks can start self-reporting.

It's an admirable thing, if you can curate it and really hone in on the pulse of what's happening in real time.

Because they didn't do this, you get things like this:

Did you read the third tweet yet?
Did you read the third tweet yet?

This is a case where I think some natural language processing is in order to filter what actually gets pulled in here. I'm sure Lil Flo didn't mean to offend people with this joke but it's in somewhat poor taste, and out of context, to see this kind of info when you are trying to learn about what might be happening to your friends and family in a potentially life threatening situation.

I'm surprised Google is even including Twitter content here at all considering they have Google Plus and could be leveraging "content from your circles" to make this far more relevant to the person reading the alert (unless, of course, none of their friends or family actually use Google Plus, which is a very real possibility).

That said, thinking of all my Caribbean and Florida friends and family right now as they prepare for the worst case scenario.

Also, all the hurricane talk has me thinking of the relevant song from the Hamilton musical so I'm just going to leave this right here:

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