As Isaac gets officially upgraded from a tropical storm to a Category 1 hurricane, Gulf Coast residents need to find safe shelter and track the path of the storm. Google is helping them to do just that, with an online crisis map providing dynamic weather maps of the storm, real-time updates on evacuations and emergency procedures, and live cams of storm-affected areas.
Google has set up similar pages in the past for Hurricane Irene, the Turkish earthquake, and the Japanese tsunami. "When disaster strikes, people turn to the internet for information.," Google's Crisis Response team says. "We help ensure the right information is there in these times of need by building tools to collect and share emergency information, and by supporting first responders in using technology to help improve and save lives."
Google's Hurricane Isaac Crisis Map is online now. You'll see a very large Google Map on the page, showing all of the U.S. that is currently affected, or expected to be affected, by the storm. Those nasty green clouds, of course, are the storm system. The blue line heading north is the current expected trajectory of the storm. Mousing over geographic areas will display whether the area is under flood warning, flood watch, tropical storm warning, or hurricane warning.
The map is only one of the available resources. To the right, you can click on check boxes that will enhance the map with shelter locations, evacuation information, predicted wind speed probabilities, and other features.
A particular features of note is the Evacuation Information box. Checking the U.S. Hurricane Evacuation Routes box displays recommended evacuation routes as red lines. The Current Traffic box will enhance the map view with traffic patterns on these highways, and other highways.
Additionally, you can check the User-Generated Content boxes for YouTube videos and live webcams of the storm. The icons will appear in any geographic areas with uploaded content. Not all of the videos are storm footage -- some describe evacuation updates or news developments.
Perhaps the most critical feature is the Missing Person Finder. The Google Person finder is a web app that allows you to post and search for missing friends or relatives affected by a natural disaster. If you're worried about someone, you can receive status updates on a particular missing person.
If the term "Google Person Finder" gives you privacy and stalking nightmares, be aware that Google deletes all this information after the crisis has subsided.