Tens of thousands of people in the Lowcountry today are worried for friends and family in the maw of Hurricane Sandy.
They will spend the day — like they did Monday — texting.
That’s the most reliable communication with people who have lost power or towers, because texts put less demand on the network and are stored until they can be received.
Recent disasters such as the earthquakes in Virginia and Japan have demonstrated the value of social media such as Twitter and Facebook, but particularly texting, to communicating when the infrastructure is stressed or damaged.
Because of possible slowdowns, “we encourage our customers to text to friends and family when able. This helps minimize the traffic on the network and allows for emergency calls to get through,” said Karen Schulz of Verizon.
Any number of families in the Charleston area have close ties to the Northeast metro area because of job, education and lifestyle moves. The migration back and forth has gone on for generations.
The people here now find themselves in the unsettling position of fretting about others, after years of keeping family and friends updated on what was or wasn’t happening here as storms brushed the Lowcountry coast.
On Monday, they started hearing the damage: power flicking on and off in the morning as far as New Hampshire, residents told to evacuate the 15th floor and above in New York, cellphone companies in Maryland warning that capacity will max out.
“It sounds like the city is pretty well shut down,” Charleston’s Victor Owens said of New York City, where he has a number of friends.
Owens spent Monday trying to keep tabs on five of them. When Hurricane Floyd bore down on Charleston in 1999, he evacuated to New York.
“It’s disconcerting. I’m sitting here locked into the news,” he said Monday. “I don’t know what I’ll be doing (today). We’re watching it on a minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour basis.”
One thing he does know, he’ll be headed to New York in a few weeks to help out if need be. Otherwise, it’s for Thanksgiving dinner.
Mandi Bryson knows what she’ll be doing today — wearing out her fingers.
Her parents are in Williamsport, Pa., facing a flooding Susquehanna and mountain rain runoff. Other relatives are in Harrisburg. Her best friend is in Bethesda, Md. Others are in New York City.
Bryson is a College of Charleston student life associate director. A former graduate assistant of hers is in Manhattan, evacuated from a riverside residence to a neighborhood several blocks in.
She plans to keep in touch by texting.
“Just to make sure they’re safe,” Bryson said.
A Michigan native who’s lived in Greenville, N.C., and Jacksonville, N.C., Bryson is not overly concerned, she said.
“I think, because I’ve been through so many hurricanes, blizzards and everything else, I’m OK,” she said. “I’m just worried about everybody else.”
Sean Lynch of Charleston is a student at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. On Monday, he just hunkered down and watched cranes swaying in the wind outside his apartment.
What did he expect for today?
“We know we are stuck inside our apartment until tonight or Wednesday,” he said via email.
Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744, @bopete on Twitter or Bo Petersen Reporting on Facebook.
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