As Tornado Ripped Through Alabama, ABC 33/40’s Weather Coverage Extended Well Beyond TV

By Andrew Gauthier 

Just as KMOV put Facebook to work in covering a tornado that ripped through St. Louis last weekend, Alabama’s ABC 33/40, a group ABC-affiliate (WCFT, WJSU, and WBMA) covering Birmingham, Anniston, Tuscaloosa and areas in between, used a handful of web-based tools to provide the local community with ongoing coverage of the devastating storm system that tore through the state on Wednesday.

Meteorologist James Spann led the charge as the station used Facebook and Twitter to update and interact with its audience (as well as those outside the local viewing area); Ustream to live stream the weather radar online; and the ABC 33/40 weather blog to share photos and videos, many captured by viewers.

Of course Spann also appeared on TV (video above), giving live weather updates while also curating the information and photos that the station was receiving from viewers online.

As the severe weather system charged through the state and the death toll began to climb, ABC 33/40’s Facebook page became not only a place for the station to disseminate information but also a meeting ground for members of the community to interact with each other about power outages and storm damage while also taking time to honor the deceased.

Through its use of media platforms beyond TV, ABC 33/40 was able to strengthen its standing within the community. As one viewer wrote on Facebook:

I’d like to thank James Spann and all of the meteorologists and crew at ABC 33/40 for keeping not only the people of northern Alabama informed, but the whole world informed. I know dozens of people from around the country, including myself, who were watching the UStream feed faithfully all day. Your professionalism and dedication saved countless lives today. Thank you.