Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are how many Americans are keeping in touch and keeping up with superstorm Sandy. The social media spread news, photos and personal updates.8:28AM EDT October 30. 2012 - Sandy is a massive storm, poised to bring widespread flooding and billions of dollars in damage to states from North Carolina to Maine.
And it's no slouch when it comes to social media.
In the past day, #Sandy has had more than 4 million mentions by almost 400,000 unique sources on Twitter, says Radian6, which tracks social media use. Mentions of #Sandy have had a potential reach of more than 3 billion Twitter followers, the site says.
"Hurricane Sandy" was the top phrase on Facebook in the USA in the past day, the social media giant says. Other terms in the top 10 include "stay safe," "storm," "East Coast," "my friends" and "prayers."
On the mobile photo sharing site Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, there were 233,000 photos with the hashtag "Sandy," 100,000 under "Hurricanesandy" and 20,000 under "Frankenstorm" as of Monday afternoon, according to the Associated Press.
"There are now 10 pictures per second being posted with the hashtag 'Sandy,' " said Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom in an e-mailed statement. "I think this demonstrates how Instagram is quickly becoming a useful tool to see the world as it happens -- especially for important world events like this."
The storm's path -- and the destruction it wrought -- could be followed all day Monday in photos of flooding on the streets of coastal communities in Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey. People in New Jersey, braced for a direct hit from the storm, photographed themselves in rubber rain gear in thigh-high floodwaters. Photos showed water partially submerged cars, fire hydrants and parking meters.
News spread quickly on the social sites, from the rescue by the Coast Guard of the crewmembers who abandoned the sinking replica ship the HMS Bounty to the collapse of chunks of a building's facade in downtown Manhattan.
Twitter and Facebook became a key method for friends and family to check in on each other and wish those on the East Coast to be safe.
"Sending my thoughts to all in the path of #sandy ... looks pretty bad," read a typical tweet.
Some people posted updates on whether they had power or on the strength of the wind and rain where they were.
"Eerie, flooded streets in Atlantic City, two hours after landfall. No wind and only a light rain falling. #sandynj," wrote one poster, @aubreyjwhalen.
The beginnings of controversy surfaced as people took sides when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie blamed Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford for not pushing residents harder to evacuate.
Those in the path of the storm could find practical tips, too. FEMA urged its 163,400 Twitter followers to use texts or social media to keep tabs on their friends and relatives because phone lines get clogged during disasters. It used its Twitter feed to tell people to use social media for the latest news on the storm's path and to offer tips such as never drive across water flooding a road.
Not surprisingly, there was a fair share of jokes and parodies. One site hawked blue rubber stiletto heels with flippers in front.
And as photos were shared by the thousands, several fakes made the rounds. One showed the Statue of Liberty with a menacing spiral cloud looming in the distance. Another had a shark swimming in floodwaters. Another purported to show soldiers guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns in a driving rain on Monday. The photo, however, was taken in September.