Archive for June 2010

How big is the Gulf oil spill?

June 13, 2010

Thanks to a very easy-to-use website by Andy Lintner, anyone can relate to the size of the horrible Gulf oil spill. Just go to and you will see just how large the spill is as it is superimposed over your home town. I live near Madison, Wisconsin, and the spill – as you can see below – runs from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to north of Green Bay. And I can tell you it has increased significantly just in the last couple of days.

This is a great example of how web technology can be used to both inform and depress.


Funnel clouds rip through old media

June 6, 2010

Where the old media failed residents of Sun Prairie Wisconsin on Saturday, the new media took over.

At about 2 p.m., funnel clouds started dipping down from the clouds above Sun Prairie. Everyone who wasn’t looking skyward was surprised when local authorities, responding to reports from citizens and law enforcement officials, sounded the tornado warning sirens. Yes, it was raining, but neither the National Weather Service nor any of our Super Storm Radar, Weather Tracking, Doppler fanatics at the local TV stations had predicted any severe storms. There were no warnings or watches whatsoever.

Not knowing why the tornado sirens were going off, I quickly clicked on the TV and shot through all the local channels looking for any sign of a weather update. Nothing.

Then, the text messages, photos and videos started coming into my wife’s cell phone. One of her friends was pumping gas when she looked up and saw a funnel cloud. She immediately snapped a picture, shot a little video and sent it out to her friends.

Yes, thanks to personal mobile technology, we knew about – and saw video of – the funnel clouds before TV ever acknowledged that they existed. That was quite surprising considering all the times our TV screen has been cluttered with storm maps and warnings of tornadoes that never materialize.

Fortunately, Saturday’s funnel clouds did no damage on the ground. But they did do a lot of damage to the reliability and reputation of the National Weather Service and the old media local TV weather stars who are constantly portraying themselves as our weather warning saviors.

Well, at least we saw some good coverage of the funnel clouds – but, again, not from the reporting professionals wielding their fancy equipment and expertise, but from our local citizen journalists wielding nothing but their smart phones.