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Hurricane overwhelms weather Web sites

Several U.S. weather and news Web sites were deluged by heavy traffic as hordes of people went online seeking emergency information and news on Hurricane Katrina.
/ Source: Reuters

Several U.S. weather and news Web sites were deluged by heavy traffic as hordes of people went online seeking emergency information and news on Hurricane Katrina, which battered the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Some of the graphic content on weather.com was not available from 6 p.m. to 9:15 p.m. ET on Sunday night as the storm was approaching its Louisiana landfall, according to Keynote Systems Inc., which monitors Internet performance. Keynote later corrected its earlier statement that weather.com was largely unavailable as the storm approached.

A spokesman at Weather.com said availability was close to 100 percent, but the time needed to retrieve the site’s entire home page increased to as long as 9 seconds on Monday morning, during the height of the storm, as people came back to the office and started checking the news.

Availability of the National Weather Service Web site www.nws.noaa.gov fell to 29 percent from 11:15 to 11:45 a.m. ET Monday from its usual 94 percent to 98 percent, according to Keynote.

News sites CNN.com and USAToday.com showed some degradation of performance on Monday morning, with their home pages loading at 6 seconds and 10 seconds respectively for short periods of time, and availability of ABCNews.com went as low as 52 percent from 2 to 2:30 p.m ET on Monday.

These sites usually load at 3 or 4 seconds, said Keynote. Keynote’s Business 40 Index Internet Performance Index measures the average download time for the home pages of 40 important U.S.-based business Web Sites.