'You made us feel safe' viewers say after tracking Hurricane Irma on News 6 apps

Deadly hurricane caused widespread destruction, power outages

By Michelle Ganley - Graham Media Group

ORLANDO, Fla. - As most Floridians know, the path of a hurricane is fluid, and what we expect from it can change within hours. But when you have the main News 6 app, weather app or hurricane app, it doesn’t matter if your home loses power. You’re not reliant on your TV, because you have us in your pocket: where we can livestream the news right to your phone, or show you additional streams and send you the custom-tailored alerts that matter the most in your neighborhood.

You’ll be in the know, no matter what.

When it came to staying on top of the weather situation, Saturday and Sunday were rather tense for many viewers and app users. For many Floridians, the weekend was spent focusing on Irma’s path, and the storm’s latest track. The hurricane “wobbled” so to speak, several times, so there was some uncertainty about exactly when and where it would hit.

What was perfect for this situation was the News 6 Pinpoint Hurricane Tracker, our specialized hurricane app, which showed the storm’s updated path each time more information on the path was released.

New paths were issued every six hours at first, and then every hour as the hurricane drew closer.

People from across the state were checking their app around the clock to view the latest projections and models.

News 6 also went on Facebook Live, which was accessible through our social media accounts, each time a new path was released. Our meteorologists explained what the paths meant and answered questions from viewers and app users.

For people following along with the storm on our apps, Saturday was all about storm preparedness: like we said, nailing down that path and determining who would be affected. By Sunday, most stores and businesses were closed -- and that’s when local curfews went into place, so viewers needed to be fully prepared by that time. Many people found themselves asking, “How will this storm impact me in the coming hours?,” so again, they opened their apps and called News 6 to try and get answers to those questions.

Between our phone banks, the latest storm forecasts and our online and on-air reports, which were being updated in real-time, viewers were able to stay in the know -- before and as the hurricane made landfall in Florida. News 6 meteorologists provided constant information on how far out the eye of the storm was, and explained things in terms that people could understand: 50 miles away from a certain area on the interstate, for example.
The News 6 weather team reminded people to stay inside, and meteorologists fielded questions from viewers as the catastrophic weather event arrived.
By daybreak Monday, the focus shifted to damage reports, and advising people on how to stay safe. News 6 was flooded with messages online, from people local to the area and out of town. One woman hadn’t heard from her sister, so she contacted News 6 to try and learn more about whether a power outage might be to blame for the lack of contact. We directed her, like many others, to our apps and showed the woman where she could find the necessary information.
Even mid-week, hundreds of thousands of people still remained without power. Many viewers have been unable to watch TV based on these outages, so our apps are proving to be especially essential.

People are having, or have had, a hard time keeping up with the storm -- until firing up their mobile devices. There were a lot of questions and app searches from viewers, wondering, "Is the hurricane over?" or "Will conditions get worse?" a News 6 digital team staff member said.
News 6 viewers who downloaded the weather app ahead of the storm were among those who were able to stay informed, and prepare for what was to come as Irma trekked up the Sunshine State.
And as a part of a recent update to our app, we were able to add “Pinpoint” weather alerts, which send push notifications to your phone if you were in an area under a weather alert, or if one of your saved locations had been affected. And as we know, along with a hurricane comes potential tornadoes. News 6 weather app users received timely notifications of the watches, warnings and information on which areas should be especially alert.
The apps on Monday went over what had happened with the storm statewide, they contained valuable shelter information and reminded viewers of some of the dangers that can occur after a big storm such as Irma. Now, the focus has shifted to safety, details on when things will improve as far as power and gas access and how to receive help or assistance.
“I want to thank each and every one of you at Local 6 for (your) sacrifice and dedication in providing the many hours of continuous coverage during Irma,” said viewer Mary Witherwax, of Kissimmee. “I watched every moment. It helped to ease my nerves. My husband and I are OK. All of you are awesome. Keep up the terrific work!”

“Kudos to the News 6 team. No disrespect to (the other) counties, but I live in The Villages in Sumter,” viewer Deborah Rzepka said. “After the track of Irma changed, you were the only news station that sent reports to Marion, Sumter and Lake to let us know what was happening in our neighborhoods. Thanks for being there for us last night.”
“My phone is dying out -- no power in Palm Coast,” viewer Chrissy B said. “Channel 6 responded to my message. I want to thank you for letting us know where the storm was at the the time. You made us feel safe. We are getting back-up generator ready. Stay safe, everyone.”
“Thank you so much for keeping us all informed through Irma,” said viewer Vicki Passino, of Casselberry. “Tom (Sorrells) is the best. He was spot on during the entire ordeal. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Truly being prepared for the storm meant knowing what to expect with the most up-to-date information. The app provided people with information including rainfall totals, different view of the radar and a fresh look at what was happening in the moment, as the storm unfolded. It didn’t get much more valuable than that.


Graham Media Group 2017