Katrina’s Path Wends Through Web

As Hurricane Katrina tears along the Southeastern U.S. coastline, the Internet is once again proving its worth as a medium for first-hand information.

Approximately 52,000 people have been displaced in Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and Texas, according to Sunday estimates from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and is expected to be much worse before the hurricane loses steam.

It’s also having an affect on businesses in the area. The Times-Picayune in New Orleans is running an Internet-only edition of its newspaper today at NOLA.com, as the city deals with catastrophic damage. Mayor, C. Ray Nagin declared a state of emergency and ordered the mandatory evacuation of the city Sunday.

While it’s easy to imagine the damage that’s taking place, numerous blogs and other Web sites are delivering information with an immediacy and personal flavor that wasn’t possible even 10 years ago.

You could handily conjure up a mental image of what a category four hurricane would do to a major tourist site like New Orleans, but it’s nothing on the reality. NOLA.com’s Web cams are down because of the hurricane but pictures are flooding into the site as well as the electronic databases of popular photo aggregators like Flickr.com, which has amassed nearly 2,000 pictures of the damage.

NOLA.com’s site features a town hall site that lets residents find out the latest information and ask questions specific to their neighborhood. It’s also being used to find out information on loved ones living in those areas, like “columbian05,” who asked: “Does anyone have information on Slidell? I’m looking for any information about Lake Michingan Dr, Slidell … have not had any news from family members … looking for Ray Guzman, Jr & family!”

Another post gave readers a sense of the damage Hurricane Katrina has wrought in New Orleans neighborhoods: “Palmisano has had 10 feet of water,” wrote PhilKenSebbn. “The parish is a total loss in terms of property damage. Think Mother Nature and Hiroshima mixed together. If you have property in St. Bernard, assume it is gone at this point. I do not say this with any joy as I am an evacuee myself who lost a considerable share of my possessions.”

In “The Irish Trojan’s Blog,” blogger Brendan Loy tied the power of Google Maps with today’s news of the New Orleans levee breach to give readers a detailed picture of the extent of the flooding occurring in the city.

Satellite radio vendors XM Satellite and Sirius Satellite are running 24/7 news feeds on the hurricane, providing the latest information on Hurricane Katrina, while more traditional news agencies like CNN, ABC and CBS are providing constant news feeds.

Online encyclopedia Wikipedia even has a running update of the hurricane at its site, providing new details as editors add to the knowledge about the hurricane already compiled.

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