Fake weather photos cause social media stir


During severe weather, social media can be an important tool to share alerts and warnings.But it can also mislead the public.In the midst of storms and flood warnings Sunday night, Will DeYmaz, 17, posted a picture on Twitter depicting a person struggling in flood waters with the caption "Flooding in Natural Steps" (an area in Pulaski County)."It was meant to be a joke," DeYmaz said.Although some users called Will out for the picture being fake, DeYmaz said it was retweeted or mentioned over 100 times before he deleted it."I didn't really understand how serious it could be," DeYmaz said.He wasn't the only one who posted a picture claiming it was from the Central Arkansas area Sunday night.Another photo posted showed a partially submerged red truck in a Walmart parking lot.The caption said "Serious flooding at Benton Walmart. Stay inside."Several Twitter users questioned the authenticity of the photo, or flat out said the poster was incorrect.The National Weather Service has been tracking down fake pictures of weather events for years.{}"It's like the little boy that cried wolf," explained John Robinson with the National Weather Service.Robinson said they use the pictures to verify warnings issued by the NWS - if the picture is real."If we get a picture and we have a flash flood warning for instance in effect and that shows flooding, well that might be used to verify that warning," Robinson said. "But we want to make sure the picture is not fake first."Robinson says fake pictures on social media can keep them from investigating real damage, and can cause unnecessary panic."We had a couple of cases last year. A picture was presented as being tornado damage in Sunshine, Arkansas off Highway 227 in Garland County, and it was a picture of the Moore, Oklahoma tornado which was a much bigger tornado.""I learned it's not really appropriate to tweet that stuff because a lot of people really take it to be serious," DeYmaz said. "Crisises like flooding are actually a lot more serious than I expected."Will later deleted the picture and issued an apology, saying "I'm sorry to all the people of Arkansas Weather for my tweet earlier that mislead a lot of people!"