As the major news channels in the world focused on the facts and figures behind hurricane Irene’s impending arrival last week, I chose to get my information on her through my friends, followers and followees on Facebook and Twitter. Instead of getting the facts about her wind speed, trajectory or the latest clip of Mayor Bloomberg talking about evacuation, I got the inside track on how people were feeling and what they were seeing, via pictures, video and words.

The New York Times featured a Twitter ticker with updates from contributors to the paper on their thoughts and insights on Irene. New York City-based celebrities announced to their legions of followers what the view was like from their apartments high in the skies of Manhattan. And then there were my friends on Facebook–including my husband–who were making light of what was quickly turning into a scary situation. There’s nothing like a little humor to help ease the nerves.

Rather than just hearing accounts from random people-on-the-street, I was actually getting updates from my friends. It was refreshing and at the same time entertaining and informative. This was crowd sourcing at its best. Various TwitPics showed New York City in its pre-Irene stages: Times Square eerily looking like a ghost town; empty shelves at neighborhood grocery stores; and the windows of Bloomingdale’s boarded shut.

When Irene finally did touchdown in New York, Twitter was afire with updates from locals alerting the rest of the world what they were seeing. The #irene and #hurricaneirene hashtags were a flurry of everything from humor to public assistance and general information. Even those with power outages were able to get updates via smart phones and iPads. If there were ever an event to showcase that social media is more than just a passing trend, Hurricane Irene was it.

Photo via @danthegiftguru