Communicators get creative to warn about Hurricane Florence

The vast storm is bearing down on the East Coast, forcing evacuations and disrupting travel plans. Here’s how communicators are warning their audiences about the incoming danger.

Hurricane Florence crisis comms

When lives depend on it, how can you ensure your message cuts through the noise?

Hurricane Florence, now a Category 4 storm with winds up to 140 mph, could become a Category 5 monster before making landfall along the coastline of the Carolinas and Virginia. In many areas, officials and residents are preparing for intense rain and flooding, and more than 1 million people have been ordered to evacuate.

Locals have been boarding windows and filling sandbags, but communicators are still working to get the message out that the storm is exceedingly dangerous—and that those who can leave should get out of town.

Twitter an essential channel

Authorities used Twitter to share evacuation orders:

Some took a more humorous approach, hoping to cut through the internet chatter:

Some organizations have already begun to solicit donations:

Social media videos show the flooding from the pre-storm surge:

Others are sharing their apprehension:

Communicators are pushing a hashtag that people can follow for updates:

Travel warnings

Many transportation providers are suspending their operations to avoid sending travelers into harm’s way. Delta is among the airlines tweeting about their response to the monster storm:

American Airlines and United Airlines have grabbed eyeballs by tweeting a GIF:

Amtrak is sharing information regarding service disruption:

Politicians speak out
Elected officials seek to inform the public that Florence is more fierce than most other hurricanes that have menaced the Southeast.

The New York Daily News reported:

“This storm is a monster. It’s big and it’s vicious. It is an extremely dangerous, life-threatening, historic hurricane,” said North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper.

The storm’s coastal surge could leave the eastern tip of North Carolina under more than 9 feet of water in spots, projections showed. Florence was about 800 miles southeast of Cape Fear, N.C., on Tuesday, and bearing down on the coast at 17 mph.

“The waves and the wind this storm may bring is nothing like you’ve ever seen. Even if you’ve ridden out storms before, this one is different. Don’t bet your life on riding out a monster,” said Cooper, who issued a mandatory evacuation order for North Carolina’s barrier islands.
“We’ve seen nor’easters and we’ve seen hurricanes before,” Cooper said. “But this one is different.”

President Donald Trump used Twitter to warn residents to take the storm seriously and take “precautions”:

Other officials are just as concerned:

The Daily News continued:

National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham warned that Florence could knock out electricity and cause widespread flooding, as forecasters said some parts of North Carolina could get 1½ to 2 feet of rain, with nearly a foot in parts of Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

“This one really scares me,” Graham said.

Jeff Byard, an official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, predicted the storm “could knock out power days into weeks,” he said. “It’s going to destroy infrastructure. It’s going to destroy homes.”

Celebrities have taken to their social media channels to encourage people to evacuate. “One Tree Hill” star Hilarie Burton shared her message via Instagram:

Communicators looking for ideas on how to reach people who are stubbornly refusing to evacuate can take a lesson from the crisis communicators in Texas during Hurricane Harvey. Remember to used vivid imagery and tell a compelling story—and you just might break through the increased noise and reach those who need your message.

What are your crisis communication tips?

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