Millions on Social Media Express Hurricane Stress, Fear

UPDATE:  Since Friday, there have been 3 MILLION posts with stress still the key emotional driver, but now at 18 percent from 22 percent. Conversations center around emergency workers, recovery and where and if the storm surge will hit.


For many, many weeks, according to our analytics platform Kairos, the topic more Americans have discussed (for good or for bad) in social conversations than any other has been Donald Trump. Apparently it takes multiple natural disasters to make it happen, but this week, Trump isn’t claiming the top spot. Instead, all attention is on Hurricanes Irma, Katia and Jose.

And we mean dominating the top spot.

From September 2nd (Saturday) to today (Friday) there have been more than 2.2 million posts about the hurricanes currently pummeling the Caribbean Islands with its eye on Florida where it’s expected to hit on Saturday or Sunday. For scale, when we explored the conversations on the 6th, the volume was close around 1.4 million, so in less than 36 hours, there have been about a million more posts about the recent hurricanes.

To understand what caused the spike aside from the obvious, like impending destruction of homes, treasured possessions and confusion about braving it or pushing through traffic, we tapped into the power of Kairos and analyzed the emotional drivers behind the words.

When people expressed an emotion within their conversation about the hurricanes, 22 percent expressed stress and 16 percent expressed fear.

When we pushed further to understand why specifically, we found that much of the stressed conversations focus on airlines (trying to leave the storm) and home improvement (trying to prepare for the damage).

More specifically, 12 percent of the conversations classified as stressful are about American Airlines raising prices – including accusations of price-gouging and cancelled flights.

Following close behind at 11 percent of the stressed conversations is about JetBlue cancelling flights as well, even after offering flights up to Saturday for flat rates of $99.

Home Depot drove 10 percent of the conversations indicated as stressful. Stores in Florida are running short on supplies like plywood and sandbags, but are rapidly rationing and responding with emergency supplies to affected locations.

People are sharing where they can find additional supplies and keeping others in the loop of where supplies are running out. 

Also dominating the social-sphere are conversations around the response to the victims and potential victims of Mother Nature’s wrath, like the One America Appeal. Five living former presidents of the United States — Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama—  got together to show support for Hurricane Harvey victims and may expand it to those who are hit by Hurricane Irma.

Their campaign, called, “Our Friends in Texas,” ran during Thursday’s NFL game broadcast on NBC. The main message of the 30-second spot is to “ensure that 100 cents out of every dollar goes to assist hurricane victims,” according to the announcement.

In addition to the One America Appeal, charities like the Harvey Relief Fund, which focuses on the greater Houston region, and the Rebuild Texas Fund are working to support those affected.

Interested in providing support to hurricane victims? Here are a few great options, courtesy of PBS:

  • The American Red Cross is training volunteers to deploy to Florida for on-the-ground support of the communities in Irma’s wake.
  • Many people will find themselves suddenly homeless. To help, sign up on Habitat for Humanity’s Hurricane Recovery Volunteer Registry to rebuild homes after Irma passes.
  • Airbnb is looking for property owners to offer free accommodations to families displaced by Hurricane Irma.
  • National Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster is preparing for the aftermath of Irma by organizing volunteers now. Register online.
  • If you live in Florida and want to help, Volunteer Florida is looking for people to work at shelters. You can register online, or search their list of other ways to help locally.
  • NOVAD is an association of organizations that help mitigate the impact of disasters. Register here to volunteer with NOVAD in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.

Where to donate blood

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, where blood supplies were dangerously low, officials anticipate a similar crisis in Florida. Find an American Red Cross blood bank near you to donate blood, or visit LifeSouth if you live in Florida.

Where to donate cash

  • Catholic Charities USA, Salvation Army, and American Red Cross are a few of the charities providing on-the-ground assistance to Hurricane Irma communities.
  • UNICEF is shipping emergency supplies such as water, food, and medicine from their warehouse in Copenhagen.
  • Thousands of pets are expected to be displaced by Hurricane Irma. You can support lifesaving efforts for displaced animals by donating to the ASPCA Field Investigation and Response Fund.
  • Convoy of Hope is sending food and emergency supplies and help to the victims of Hurricane Irma in the U.S. Haiti, and Cuba.
  • GoFundMe has consolidated all Hurricane Irma related campaigns here.
  • Charity Navigator has compiled a list of highly rated organizations who are responding to Irma.
  • Florida’s hunger relief organization, Feeding Florida, works with foodbanks across the state to feed those in need.
  • OXFAM is working with partners in the Caribbean to provide safe drinking water and sanitation to those affected by Irma.
  • Americacares has already sent emergency response teams to the Caribbean islands and is preparing to assist Florida.
  • Save the Children sets up Child Friendly Spaces (CFS) in shelters. Children can play, read, and be cared for while their parents deal with the stress of natural disasters. They are readying teams to send to Florida and the islands impacted by Irma.