This year's Atlantic hurricane season has begun with dramatic effect with the arrival of Tropical Storm Erika, which has wreaked havoc on the island of Dominica. Experiencing about one inch of heavy rainfall every hour for about 12 hours, the “nature isle” has been facing severe flooding, with landslides reportedly causing several fatalities.
As is often the case during a crisis, social media was the communication channel that people were depending on for information. Twitter was, of course, instrumental in getting information and images out quickly; Robert Tonge, Dominica's minister for tourism and urban renewal, was regularly updating his Facebook page with citizen media videos, photos and updates.
Facebook user Roberts Josie posted a video of the area of Mahaut, in which the river broke its banks and came charging through the town with a fury. The Roseau River, named after the island's capital, was also a frightening sight. There were several photographs of submerged cars; even a car dealership suffered the effects of the storm. Across the island, it seemed, flood waters were raging. Facebook user Reichen Sylvester Faustin posted a photo of the Bayfront area of the capital — it was difficult to tell the difference between land and sea — even the Coast Guard base was under water.
— Anaridis Rodriguez (@Anaridis) August 27, 2015
— The Weather Network (@weathernetwork) August 27, 2015
A portion of the Roseau Rover Church collapsed under pressure from the swirling waters; you can hear screaming as onlookers realised what was happening.
— Deshane (@Twice_VI) August 27, 2015
— Weather Network US (@TheWeatherNetUS) August 27, 2015
— Richard Lewelling (@RLewelling) August 27, 2015
As the scale of the damage became more apparent, there were widespread calls on social media to pray for Dominica. The storm finally subsided at about 5 p.m. on Thursday, August 27, leaving in her wake significant devastation:
— MarkVoganWeather.com (@MarkVogan) August 27, 2015
In a curious twist, Facebook user Leslie-Ann Boisselle was appalled to discover that some netizens were not getting their geography or their politics right:
I am seeing lots of posts online where people are saying ‘it good for Dominica – they treat the Haitians so bad’ ‘the Haitians wukking Obeah on the Dominican people’ LETS GET THIS STRAIGHT
Dominica is a sovereign island state. Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispanola with Haiti. THEY ARE TWO DIFFERENT COUNTRIES for the love of mike.
And no one should be reveling in the misfortune of others. That is not right -not right at all
Even as the region's hearts went out to the people of Dominica, there were concerns as to who could be next:
— Jessy Schuster (@CaribFrenchy) August 28, 2015
The storm seems to have its sights set on south Florida; there were earlier concerns about it hitting Antigua, but it seems the tiny island towards the north of the archipelago was spared.
— André Sharpe♍ (@DreMuzik2) August 28, 2015
Netizens across the region continue to keep an eye on the first major storm of the 2015 hurricane season.