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Environmental reporter Christopher Dunagan discusses the challenges of protecting Puget Sound and all things water-related.
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Online technology means up-to-date weather info

January 9th, 2009 by cdunagan

The Kitsap Peninsula largely escaped the onslaught of rains on Wednesday, thank to the “rain shadow” effect of the Olympic Mountains. See Brynn Grimley’s story in yesterday’s Kitsap Sun.

The rain shield eventually broke down as the storm direction changed, and we got hit pretty good yesterday. But the scattered flooding and mudslides didn’t come close to what we saw in December of 2007.

The biggest problem in this area was Highway 166 between Port Orchard and Gorst, where perennial mudslides disrupt the normal traffic flow. See Travis Baker’s story in today’s Kitsap Sun.

As for other areas of the state, it’s worth noting that the Sun’s Web editor, Angela Dice, and other newspaper Web editors used some relatively new online tools — including Twitter and Publish2 — to keep people updated about the weather. If you logged onto the Sun’s weather coverage, you would have access to a growing list of links about weather events taking place all over the state.

This flood of information was made possible through a collaboration of online journalists and others who believe that getting information out to people is more important than old-fashioned competition, which used to dominate the news business. It’s actually one of the few bright spots in an shrinking industry where news coverage suffers amid the evaporation of advertising revenues.

The story of this week’s collaboration was featured today in the online publication “Publishing 2,” which reports on developments regarding an online system that helps connect journalists together. The author of the piece, Josh Korr, calls this week’s effort a “quiet revolution” in which “four journalists spontaneously launched one of the first experiments in collaborative (or networked) link journalism to cover a major local story.”

For the average reader, this new approach means that newspaper Web sites become richer with breaking news. You could use the Kitsap Sun, for example, to figure out which roads were blocked at any one time pretty much anywhere in the state.

Want to be even more current with events? Go to the search engine on Twitter and type in “#waflood.” You’ll see a twittering of reporters, highway engineers and other people tweeting about the latest developments on the roads and rivers.

Meanwhile, geologists for the Washington Department of Natural Resources have developed a network to share information about mudslides with the hope that knowledge will help reduce future problems. Check out the map of recent mudslides and learn about the hazards and what you can do about them.

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