The strongest Atlantic storm in history is taking aim at Florida, making access to online search and information critical. Google is stepping up to help by providing real-time road-closure information in its maps platform during a time when many Floridians will need to make split-second decisions as Hurricane Irma hits land.
"We are coordinating with Google's emergency response team to close roads in Google Maps in real-time in the event that hurricane Irma forces the closure of any roads in the aftermath of the storm," said Florida Governor Rick Scott during a news briefing that CBS News ran on Twitter.
Scott declared a statewide emergency and warned that Irma could be worse than Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 hurricane that hit Florida in 1992.
Janel Laravie, cofounder and CEO at Chacka Marketing, said "as a Florida resident and long-time Google partner, I'm happy to see them involved and happy to help in any way they can."
Laravie's area is not under mandatory evacuation, but she is "truly touched" by the outpouring from partners, clients and competitors with offers of places to stay and work, as well as anything else she and employees might need. She closed the office from today through Monday.
"Our thoughts are with those affected by Hurricane Irma," said a Google spokesperson. "We're working directly with Florida officials to help provide up-to-date information to those affected by the storm."
Google uses algorithms and manual methods to account for everyday and emergency road closures. The road closures also will appear on Google's Irma Crisis Map, embedded as part of our SOS Alert on Search.
Google Maps began showing accidents, construction and road closures in 2013 around the time it acquired Waze to indicate real-time traffic alerts. The Waze app typically relies on Waze users to report back, but not in this case, according to one report.