Srikanth, a marketing professional, is in Hyderabad on an assignment. He is in constant touch with his friend, an IT professional in Tokyo. Between breaks, the two of them are helping Chennai brave the rains.

Over the past fortnight, the North East monsoon has battered Tamil Nadu, with incessant rains paralysing the state capital. Vast chunks of the city remain under water. Schools, colleges, shops and many business institutions have remained shut for days.

As Chennai tried to get to grips with the relentless showers and resultant flooding, a group of five weather bloggers have helped keep the city afloat.

Called into action

Chennai Rains – Chennai’s Own Meteorological Kaleidoscope, as it describes itself – started out a blog in November 2014 with simple forecasts and explanations about the weather conditions affecting the city. It was a hobby for its contributors and a source of information only for the avid weather watcher.

“We use readily available information provided by the India Meteorological Department and break down the information to make it more accessible to the common man,” Srikanth, 40, said. "Using wind patterns and radar feeds, we were able to warn people about thunderstorms and rain approaching the city."

But things changed during the deluge this November. Chennai Rains became a 24x7 source of information, its Twitter and Facebook pages became Chennai’s go-to place for information about rain forecasts, flood zones, emergency information, etc.

" and the @ChennaiRains handle turned into a hotspot for a real-time information about the floods," said Srikanth. He said that while the IMD and other weather blogs also provided information, what made Chennai Rains popular was its regular updates, most of which was crowdsourced. Residents from across the city posted photos, videos and text warnings.

Srikanth and his fellow bloggers sift through these posts and re-tweet the most important information. "We have passed about people being stranded to the operating team of the National Disaster Response Force."





Keeping it real

Some residents, like 25-year-old A Abhimanyu, are relying on Chennai Rains to make sure they get through on their daily commutes. “It’s a two-hour bus ride to my office. I keep checking the Chennai Rains handle on Twitter for information,” said Abhimanyu. "If I notice an alert about flooding on my route, I turn back home or choose another mode of transport."

The Chennai Rains team makes it very clear that they are an unofficial source of information, even though they try to verify all the information sent to them. During the floods, they also had to quell inevitable rumours often spread via SMS.


With their day jobs keeping the team occupied, they find it difficult to meet the demand. “One of the worst days of the floods before Diwali, I spent 22 hours consecutively updating the blog and Twitter feed,” said Srikant. “There are occasions when we are unable to post any information for an hour or two and that causes a bit of chaos.”

But with more heavy rain forecast for this week, their job isn't done. The team hopes to continue its work through a newly-released Android app, which sends out notifications about flooding and approaching rain. "Our only aim is to help people," said Srikanth.