Georgia

Spotty data or internet after Hurricane Michael? Try these apps to communicate

Michael ‘most intense hurricane’ to strike Florida panhandle since 1851, says FEMA admin

President Donald Trump was briefed on Hurricane Michael as it neared the Florida Panhandle with potentially catastrophic 150 mph winds on October 10, 2018. The administrator of the FEMA, Brock Long, talked about the impending danger.
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President Donald Trump was briefed on Hurricane Michael as it neared the Florida Panhandle with potentially catastrophic 150 mph winds on October 10, 2018. The administrator of the FEMA, Brock Long, talked about the impending danger.

Downed power lines and tumbled trees left thousands without power after Hurricane Michael barreled through the Florida panhandle and across Georgia Wednesday and Thursday.

The storm devastated parts of the Gulf Coast, exploding houses and collapsing buildings. At least two people were reported killed due to the storm.

Some people have reported spotty cell phone service and internet in Michael’s aftermath, likely because of the continued power outages, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.

Some on social media said they had no cell service or had trouble contacting relatives.

“We continue to evaluate the affects from Hurricane Michael. Due to storm damage and power outages, some customers may be experiencing issues with their wireline and wireless services in areas where the storm made landfall,” AT&T said in a statement. “We are monitoring our network closely as storm conditions continue and are coordinating with emergency management officials and local utility companies. Our technicians have been preparing for storm-related issues and are working to respond to affected areas as quickly and as safely as conditions allow.”

Most major cell networks have opened up unlimited data and messaging plans for those in the affected areas.

There are some apps that allow you to keep communicating even without a strong cell or internet connection, however. You’ll need to get online long enough to download the application, but that’s all.

One of the most popular for communicating during disasters is called Zello.

On its store page, Zello describes itself as a “fast and simple walkie-talkie app” that works over Wi-Fi or your phone’s cellular network. You’ll need some sort of connection, in other words, but it can work even in weak signals like 2G. No 4G LTE required.

Once your family and friends have the app and sign up, you can put them all in one big private group. From then on, the system works as if everyone had their own walkie-talkie radio. Press a big virtual microphone button, and everyone in the group will hear what you’re saying in real time.

Another option, which is best for those who are in close proximity but may be in a shelter or doing things in different rooms, is called Firechat.


Firechat works even without an internet or cell phone connection, making it useful for close, crowded areas where signal is weak or nonexistent, like disaster shelters. The app itself says it works in an area of around 200 feet. The app uses peer-to-peer Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to keep everyone’s phones connected, and it can be downloaded from the Google Play and iPhone app store. The Serval Mesh is a similar project.

For general disaster updates, apps like the Red Cross’s Hurricane can be good to have once data is restored.

The NOAA Hurricane Hunter WP-3D Orion takes a bumpy ride through HurricaneMichael before the storm makes landfall on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018.

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