Technology a huge help in snow storm

Published 4:00 pm Tuesday, February 11, 2014

By KATIE MCDOWELL/General Manager

It’s been said before, but I will say it again – the Jan. 28 winter storm caught everyone by surprise.

I include myself in that statement. I was one of those stranded by the storm, although I was lucky. I left work only to realize I was not going to make it home after 30 minutes on the road. I returned to work and was soon joined by two coworkers.

Another coworker allowed us to stay at her home in Columbiana that night, so we were warm and well-fed.

One of the most inspiring and interesting developments during the snow storm was the use of social media and other technology to share information and help stranded motorists. Facebook, Twitter and news sites shared vital information about traffic, warming stations and updates from schools. This is nothing new, but I think it was a good reminder of the power of technology.

The “Stranded Motorists Help Jan. 28, 2014” Facebook group, which was taken down after the storm, was instrumental in organizing the effort to locate and help stranded motorists.

At the Shelby County Reporter, we set a company record for mobile visits because of the number of people checking our website through their phones. We also saw an increase in Facebook visitors Jan. 28-29.

I thought it was a good lesson in how people act during a weather (and traffic) emergency.

It also was a good reminder to be prepared. After the storm, I made an emergency kit for my car. In addition to bottled water, snacks, a blanket, socks and proper shoes – I was wearing heels on Jan. 28, huge mistake – I am planning to add a wireless phone charger.

For many people, phones and other electronic devices were lifelines during the storm. So, before the Jan. 28 snow storm is pushed out of your mind, think about the things you would want if you are stuck in your car or the snow for an extended period of time.

Katie McDowell is the General Manager for the Shelby County Reporter. She can be reached at 669-3131 ext. 24 or by email at