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One flock of a storm: Epic weather, social media in Grand Rapids

Social media long ago replaced "the corner diner" as the place for conversations about current events. Here is one retelling of how everyday people take advantage of the many, dynamic possibilities of social media.

The Polar Vortex

"In addition to bringing cold, the air mass can push the jet stream—the band of wind that typically flows from the Pacific Ocean across the U.S.—much further south as well. If the jet stream puts up a fight, the moisture it carries can fall out as heavy snow, which atmospheric scientists say is the circumstance that caused the February 2010 “snowmageddon” storm that shut down Washington, D.C."


"On Tuesday, Detroit set a new record low of -14 degrees, breaking the old record of -7 set in 1924."


"Hell has frozen over. Hell, Michigan that is."

Social media long ago replaced "the corner diner" as the place for conversations about current events. No more so than here, in Grand Rapids, MI. Especially during epic winter weather, as the storm becomes almost secondary to the ongoing conversation about the storm.
Unlike "the corner diner," social media infuses a conversation with nearly infinite possibilities for sharing, including: pictures, video, audio, and instant interactivity with a limitless community of people.

Below are just a few of the highlights of this experience, made possible by the dynamic qualities of social media.

You may agree, this is a very exciting time be... at a corner diner that doesn't have wifi.


-96 hours before storm hits, Posts begin forecasting temps for Grand Rapids that are so low, your OS switches from Fahrenheit to Kelvin.

-72 hours, Suddenly everyone on Facebook is an expert on jet streams and what not.

-48 hours, Grand Rapids City Commission passes an emergency ordinance, banning the word "temperature," instead mandating use of the term "wind chill."

-47.5 hours, Grand Rapids Mayor George K. Heartwell amends the emergency ordinance, requiring people to explain "wind chill" whenever they use the term.

-24 hours, A weather map begins circulating with darker colors representing cities to be hit hardest by the storm

Weather Map - extreme colors represented by darker hues

-12 hours, Meteorologist George Lessons tweets, "Normally at WZZM, we measure atmospheric pressure with a barometer. But now we're using a fubar-ometer!"

-8 hours, Even that one guy who only uses Facebook to play "Farmville" is now posting about the weather.

-4 hours, Feeds become dominated by posts expressing anxieties and excitement about the incoming storm, including reminiscences of the "The Great Blizzard of 1978" by the seven Twitter users who were alive back then.

0 hours, Meteorologist George Lessons tweets from the deck outside WZZM, "Weather's ball's blue!"

+4 hours, Stories begin to circulate on social media of people helping people who are stranded by the snow, people shoveling senior neighbors' driveways, and other acts of kindness.

+4.1 hours, The National Weather Service reports the storm has been delayed and, despite zero snowfall recorded in the past several days, heavy snowfalls are expected "anytime."

+6 hours, Weather hits.

+8 hours, Widespread agreement that the weather has hit.

+10 hours, Widespread agreement that the extreme weather exhibits many extreme qualities.

+12 hours, Friends in other cities talk about their weather and how similar it is.

+24 hours, People in warmer regions, such as Florida, post updates sarcastically referencing how cold it is where they live, because it's 65 degrees, haha.

+36 hours, Friends on vacation post how they're "really worried" they might "be stranded in the tropics" LOL ROFLOL LMAO haha.

+48 hours, Friends on vacation start posting pics about how they're "dealing with the storm" on the beach, with a drink; instantly defriended, blocked and unfollowed by over half the people they know in Grand Rapids.

+54 hours, Climate-change deniers in full vindication mode, posting and commenting feigned curiosity about what happened to global warning.

+60 hours, People begin complaining about the weather.

+64 hours, People who were just complaining about the weather begin to complain about people complaining about the weather.

+68 hours, People begin to complain about people complaining about the people who are complaining about the weather.

+72 hours, The hydra of complaints spawning on social media become eerily similar to "The Grumpy People's Front of Judea" sketch by Monty Python.

+84 hours, Storm tapers off.

+90 hours, Storm ends.

+96 hours, Overly clever artist creates satircal commentary about Grand Rapids' social media reaction to the weather.

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