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Weather, Government Sites See Hurricane Surge

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NEW YORK As Hurricane Isabel drew closer to the East Coast this week, traffic to weather Web sites steadily grew.

Nearly 2 million people logged onto the Weather Channel's Weather.com on Wednesday, a 75 percent increase over the same day a week ago, according to Nielsen/NetRatings. WeatherBug.com and AccuWeather recorded 455,000 and 349,000 visitors, respectively. That is a 50 percent rise for the former and 69 percent jump for the latter versus the previous Wednesday. And Weather Underground recorded the greatest gain two days ago, with traffic growing to 258,000.

The increase in traffic numbers does not reflect Internet applications, such as those provided by The Weather Channel and WeatherBug. Nielsen/NetRatings estimates that more then ten million Americans turn to weather Internet applications on a monthly basis.

Meanwhile, traffic to government agency sites soared. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (www.NOAA.gov), which includes the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center, recorded 900,000 visitors on Wednesday, according to comScore Media Metrix. That is a 200 percent increase over an average of the past four weeks. The Federal Emergency Management Agency's Web site (www.FEMA.gov) had 60,000 visitors on Wednesday, up 500 percent versus a four-week average.

"The constant updates of weather news have been especially crucial for those living close to the storm front," said Greg Bloom, senior Internet analyst at Nielsen NetRatings, a part of Adweek parent VNU.

The hurricane, which came ashore in the mid-Atlantic region yesterday, was downgraded to a tropical depression this morning.