What I Learned From Live-Tweeting Hurricane Sandy

Covering the superstorm on social media gave me a whole new perspective on Philadelphia.

Hurricane Sandy kept me busy. Unlike responsible, intrepid reporters who got down and dirty with Sandy—including the admirable Jason Nark of the Daily News, who sent sobering dispatches from the Shore—I rode out the storm from the comfort of my couch. Over the course of 36 hours, I tweeted any info I could find about Sandy’s impact—and when there wasn’t any news to share, I chatted with other Philadelphians who were spending their time on Twitter. More than 300 people joined in the sharing of stories and information. It was one of those moments that made me realize just how powerful technology can be, especially during a crisis.

But enough with the sappy stuff. Even though I consider myself an expert on the psyche of Philadelphians—living here for almost 30 years gives me instant street cred—I learned a lot about the city while tweeting my way through the hurricane. Here are seven lessons I learned about Philadelphians.

1. Kids have gotten so much sneakier.
After Mayor Nutter announced schools would open on Wednesday, a bunch of crafty schoolchildren started retweeting old tweets announcing Monday and Tuesday’s closures. It became such a trend that Jim Gardner even warned parents to be on the look out! I can only hope this scheme worked out for some young Ferris Buellers.

2. There are a lot of people on Team Cecily.
The highlight of Hurricane Sandy for anyone who obsessively watched local news coverage happened on Monday when 6ABC meteorologist and well-known hottie Cecily Tynan allegedly called fellow weatherperson Adam Joseph a moron. I tweeted about this, because it was hilarious (and because by Monday evening, the anchors weren’t the only ones acting a little punch-drunk) within minutes I received dozens of tweets and Facebook messages in defense of Tynan, even after her flimsy excuses. “Cecily didn’t say that. She’s too classy!” one commenter wrote.

3. There are not so many people on Team Adam.
Though some commenters called for Cecily to be fired for her supposed name-calling, most giggled along with me. A few agreed with the alleged comment, saying that Adam Joseph is, in fact, a moron. He does, however, have one very serious fan who wrote, “If Cecily is scared of Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath, she should watch out for Hurricane Jessica. I LOVE YOU, ADAM! #TeamAdamJoseph.”

4. Philadelphians are super-serious about their snacking.
In a moment of total boredom on Monday afternoon, I mentioned on Twitter that I’d already eaten most of my hurricane snacks. My feed erupted with people who agreed and within a few minutes, people began chatting about what they were eating. (No big shock: None of it was healthy.) We even made a Twitter Snack Connection when a tweeter with “lots of cheese” invited a tweeter with “lots of wine” over to hang out. Social media at its finest, people.

5. Philadelphians are even more serious about their drinking.
Anyone on Twitter probably noticed the prolific #OpeninPHL and #ClosedinPHL tags which originally appeared during a snowstorm last year when foodies and restauranteurs posted info about what was open. This time around, I saw more and more folks tweeting about their local watering holes. Some people tweeted at me, asking for info and I saw lots of folks tweeting directly to their favorite pubs. Apparently, while hurricanes make me hungry, they make a whole lot of other people very, very thirsty. Bottoms up!

6. In times of trouble, Philly knows how to be nice.
Our city may have a reputation for being a little, um, surlier than others. And our general internet population is known for being particularly scummy (that finger is pointin’ at you, Philly.com commenters!). But I was straight-up astonished at the kindness people expressed on Twitter during the storm and immediately after. The question I was asked most was, “How can I volunteer to help?” This is the Philly I know and love. Thanks for the reminder, tweeps.

7. Michael Nutter’s hats are the Philly version of the CHRIS CHRISTIE GOVERNOR fleece.
I saw every single press conference that was aired between Sunday evening and Tuesday afternoon. While there’s been lots of media hoopla about New Jersey Governor Christie’s fuzzy navy blue fashion choice, I noticed that Michael Nutter switched his baseball cap no fewer than six times throughout the course of the hurricane coverage. Who cares, you might ask? The people of Philadelphia care, as evidenced by this new Tumblr—which I wish I had thought of—called Mayor Nutter of Many Hats.