Monsoon Special 2013: Social media and the monsoon

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- When the big storms roll in, what do you reach for first?  Your umbrella? Or your phone?  Technology is becoming the must-have accessory for the Arizona monsoon.

People love to post on Facebook about the latest dust storm, or tweet about a good rain shower.  But these can be great resources during storms, too. 

SRP (@SRPconnect) and APS (@apsFYI) both use Twitter to get the word out about power outages, and they follow up with tweets about expected outage times and when power returns. 

The government is now sending storm warnings straight to your phone through a new program.  You don't have to sign up for the warnings. They automatically come to your phone, and you can contact your carrier to opt out if you don't want the warnings. 

The National Weather Service is also getting in on the online conversation. 

Through Twitter and Facebook, they spread the word on storm watches and warnings, plus issue forecasts and updates during storms.

Meteorologist Charlotte Dewey with the National Weather Service says social media is also a great way for the NWS to get "ground truth" to what they're seeing on the radar, and to asses storm damage.

"Pictures are always helpful, too. That way, we can see the severity," she said. "Is it a 2-inch or an 8-inch tree?  That makes a difference as well."