US web users were unable to access a number of high-profile websites on Wednesday after as a ‘Frankenstorm’ hit New York, knocking several servers in Lower Manhattan offline. Sites such as the Huffington Post, Gizmodo and BuzzFeed, along with all Gawker Media sites, were affected, after flood water damaged the servers of Datagram, a Manhattan ISP whose servers host the sites.
The websites have kept their readers updated on social networks including Facebook and Twitter as officials attempt to fix the problem.
The UK edition of the Huffington Post published a hand-drawn “low-tech” version of the website (shown below).
Stephen Hull, executive editor of Huffington Post UK, said: “Firstly, our thoughts are with everyone in the US and other countries the region who have been hit by Sandy. In the UK we are now publishing directly to Facebook, Twitter and RebelMouse to bring Huffington Post and AOL readers the same quality of service we always do. Part of HuffPost’s approach is to link to other great pieces of journalism and we are doing exactly that, while creating our own content on social networks. We’d encourage everyone to start following us if they want a unique way to follow the news and keep the conversation about the impact of Sandy going.’
Buzzfeed posted a text they received from a Datagram official on Tumblr: “Basement flooded, fuel pump off line – we got people working on it now. 5 feet of water now.”
Buzzfeed is serving pages intermittently as the site’s remote network which stores pages on servers around the world is apparently struggling to keep up with demand.
FEMA, the US agency charged with responding to natural disasters, had previously asked residents in the affected areas to communicate using text and social media in order to keep phone lines as clear as possible for emergency use.
The incident highlights some of the possible drawbacks of new media, but the majority of commentators are putting the outages down to extreme circumstances not poor planning.
Keen for users not to miss out on their daily dose of the Huffington Post, the site’s technology editor Michael Rundle, posted a self-penned drawing of the site’s homepage on Twitter.
The 1,000-mile-wide superstorm has been blamed for the deaths of over 40 people and left up to seven million without power across the US east coast as flooding, fierce winds and heavy rain brought New York to a standstill.
Meanwhile internet search engine giant Google has released interactive ‘crisis maps’ to track the storm’s progress and keep residents affected the storm updated.