Project description

While major national newspapers covered the daily effects of the back-to-back North American hurricanes this summer, FiveThirtyEight tried to step back and contextualize the storms. Using data that was available to the public, our reporting showed how a small news organization can still serve its readers during a national tragedy with up-to-date visualizations and analysis. We covered topics tied to the beginning, middle and end of the storms, including maps of which vulnerable populations were in the storm’s path as well as accountings of the rainfall, wind speed and economic impact of the storms.

What makes this project innovative?

FiveThirtyEight doesn’t have a weather desk or the budget to send reporters to areas affected by natural disasters. But we were able to leverage our small team’s experience collecting, reporting around and visualizing data to publish a large number of data-driven articles on deadline.

What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?

Two of the articles were among our top three most trafficked articles in September, beating our popular sports and politics coverage that month.

Source and methodology

We looked at publicly available datasets and started working on charts in anticipation of the storms. When they made landfall we were able to bring in the latest data and publish chart-heavy stories with minimal delay.

Sources included: American Community Survey, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Department of Health, National Hurricane Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Geological Survey and Unisys.

Technologies Used

We used R, QGIS and internal charting tools — built with Node, React and D3 — to analyze the data and make the charts.

Project members

This project is by Anna Maria Barry-Jester, Ella Koeze, Ritchie King, Rachael Dottle, Harry Enten, Maggie Koerth-Baker, Rob Arthur.


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