Social media can be a major distraction in today’s world. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter seem to be magnets for trashy posts and endless arguments these days … But sometimes, the power of online communication ends up saving lives.
A last-resort Twitter post from one woman in North Carolina may have just prevented a tragedy. As flood waters rose during Hurricane Florence, Breeanna Perry used the social media platform to make sure that she, along with her mother and grandmother, could be found.
“I sent the tweet, I didn’t expect it to go viral,” the New Bern, North Carolina, resident told KDVR News.
The online message was posted around 1:30 a.m. Friday, after the three women who had hunkered down in their house realized that they were in a dire situation.
Perry said that she and her family had a difficult time evacuating because her mother is disabled and her grandmother is elderly. They made the decision to stay in their home to ride out the storm — and at first, everything seemed fine.
“I came back in the house, we still had power, and everything, everybody was okay, we were just in our rooms watching TV,” Perry told KDVR.
Having electrical power during such a bad storm could have been a blessing … but it quickly turned into a dangerous curse.
“I actually put my feet on the ground to go talk to my mom, and I start being shocked,” she said. “I realized there was water on the ground and we had to turn the power off and after that the water was just coming in within minutes.”
That’s when things took a dire turn. While forced into their attic by the rising flood waters, Perry and her family tried to call 911, but found the switchboard overwhelmed with other calls.
With the power turned off for safety and conventional emergency numbers not working, the young woman turned to another place: Twitter.
As her phone was running out of battery, Perry posted a tweet with her location and situation.
“If anybody could help… our cars is under water and so is our house stuck in attic,” she posted online. “Phone about to die please send help to (address), new bern. NC.”
There was no guarantee that anybody would have seen the post for help, but something amazing happened: The message began being re-tweeted so often that it was impossible to overlook.
According to the U.K. Daily Mail, the message was re-tweeted over 11,000 times. By morning, rescuers had found the women and assisted them to evacuation buses.
Dramatic photos of the flooded house shared by KDVR showed Perry’s family car with surging water nearly above its wheels, and the flood consuming a lower floor of the house.
It’s great to see Twitter actually being used for something important, instead of angry pundits constantly yelling at each other.
At the same time, this incident is a good reminder to take warnings from officials ahead of storms very seriously — and to be prepared for emergencies where 911 may not be a guaranteed option.
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