As a blizzard slams Chicago, social media keeps the region informed

When snowstorms hit, cities, school districts and even the National Weather Service are reaching the public through Twitter, Facebook and more traditional avenues.

When a blizzard dumped 20 inches of snow in the Chicago area over 24 hours this week, suburban Elgin was ready to reach out to its citizens through Facebook and Twitter.

The city of 107,000 fired off announcements through social media, and it invited citizens to post about problems. The city manager rode along with snowplow crews, posting about progress in clearing the streets from his iPhone, BlackBerry and iPad.

The response was overwhelming, with citizens flooding Twitter and the city’s Facebook page with gripes, suggestions—and even praise.

“Especially after we had declared a state of emergency,” says spokeswoman Sue Olafson, “we really wanted to be able to communicate to our residents what we were doing to ensure that we were working on their behalf.”

Elgin is not alone. Nationwide, as snowstorms have hit this winter, social media, websites and robo-calls have changed the way that cities, counties and even the National Weather Service have communicated with the public during emergencies.

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