By Jenny Neyman
Know before you go.
That old adage is relevant when undertaking any travel in any region, but perhaps even more so in Alaska. It’s certainly as important as ever in Alaska, where severe weather and challenging conditions can whip up at any time and are particularly dangerous in the vast stretches of middle of nowhere that still exist in the state.
“However you get your weather, it’s just as important for people not to take chances, to reduce their risk through knowledge,” said Audrey Rubel, regional communications manager for the National Weather Service Alaska.
It’s also easier than ever to know before you go. With advances in technology and increasing utilization of social media, not only is there more information available, it’s shared in many more ways. These days, anyone with Internet access can have a world of weather and safety information right at their fingertips:
See how foggy it is along Turnagain Arm in your Facebook feed, get a text message warning of a developing tsunami after an earthquake in the Aleutians, watch a long-term forecast any time you’d like, visually check whether the Seward Highway has been plowed after a snowstorm, get a Tweet about increased activity at Mount Redoubt Volcano, be notified of the expected wait time at a roadwork site along your morning commute.
The older, more standard ways of sharing information still exist — the National Weather Service still provides NOAA weather radio, media outlets still do weather reports, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities still sends out notices of maintenance issues and planned roadwork, and the like. But these agencies and more also are making an increasingly proactive effort to communicate directly with people through social media.
“What it boils down to is real, serious issues, with forecasts and questions, will be directed to our forecast offices, but we do share a lot of information out via Twitter and via Facebook, at the national level and at the regional level here in Alaska,” Rubel said. “It’s still not an ‘official’ means of communications, but it is a way that we reach out with this experimental service to reach more customers. It’s a nationwide push but it’s probably especially important to us in Alaska because our weather’s so severe and we have so many people who are in remote communities. That probably increases our need for a variety of services.”