Charley Gusts Up Some Heavy Traffic For Hurricane Sites

Not surprisingly, weather sites received a big jump in the days leading up to and during Hurricane Charley, which ripped apart southwestern Florida late last week, and Tropical Storm Bonnie. In fact, many weather sites approached MediaDailyNews claiming to have won the traffic battle during the storm. However, new data from Hitwise notes that the real traffic champs last week were some relative unknowns.

According to Hitwise traffic data, the top 10 most popular Web sites for the week ending August 14 were (in order), Weather.com, Accuweather.com, Yahoo! Weather, Weather Underground, National Weather-Southern, National Weather-Central, WeatherBug, NOAA National, National Weather-Internet Weather, and the National Hurricane Center.

However, only one member of the top 10, the National Hurricane Center, was among the weather sites to have witnessed an increased in share of U.S. visits from August 7th to August 14th. Hurricane advisories received the biggest traffic increase--1,005 percent--followed by The Hurricane Center, at 287 percent, the National Hurricane Center, 231 percent, Hurricane and Storm Tracking, 170 percent, and The Hurricane Weather Center, 158 percent.

In fact, for the week ending August 14th, Hitwise data says that of the top 10 most popular sites, WeatherBug.com, The National Weather Center-Southern, and Weather.com experienced traffic decreases of 50 percent, 14 percent, and 5 percent, respectively. With respect to WeatherBug, it should be noted that WeatherBug is software that users download to their desktop, so site traffic is not indicative of software impressions.

Even so, desktop ad-supported software provider WeatherBug and The Weather Channel's weather.com both experienced giant surges during the two storms. Nielsen//NetRatings data showed that Weather.com served 66.4 million page views Friday during the storm to 6.3 million unique users. The page view figure represents a record for the site. On Wednesday, August 11, the site served 1,000 percent more video streams than on an average day. In July, overall high traffic figures of 24.5 million uniques ranked Weather.com as the 11th most popular content site on the Web, according to Nielsen.

According to comScore Media Metrix, WeatherBug recorded more than seven million daily active users during the peak of the storm on Friday, August 13. WeatherBug, which consistently pitches its weather updates as "potentially lifesaving," may have benefited from the slug, as nearly a million new users downloaded, installed, and registered the product last week. The company said that approximately 10% of its users (2.4 million) live in and around areas affected by these two storms.

WeatherBug issued 1,321 hurricane alerts to millions of users in these areas. It also delivered streaming live data alerts and images from its 313 weather stations in Florida to broadcast partners WFTS in Tampa, WBBH/WZVN in Ft. Myers, WTVJ in Miami, and WCSC in Charleston, South Carolina, as well as Westwood One Radio Network, owner of more than 1,000 radio stations. WeatherBug also claims one of the storm's highest sustained wind gusts of 89.7 miles per hour, from its own tracking station in Cape Coral, Florida.

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