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Madisonville mayor uses Facebook to get info out

When last week's ice storm cut power and and phone lines, Madisonville's tech-savvy, 42-year-old mayor turned to a social networking site to keep residents informed.

Mayor Will Cox's first post on Facebook after the storm on Jan. 28 was that he was praying for warmer weather. Then things went downhill fast.

By the next day, the entire town of Madisonville lost power and all "hell broke loose," Cox said.

All communications were down and only one radio station had generator power. Cox went to the WFMW-730 AM radio station every morning, and sometimes in the afternoons, to update Madisonville residents who had radios. And then, using his iPhone — charged by his car battery — Cox was able to send updates to his Facebook account.

"I just started posting and haven't stopped," Cox said. "I have posted inside meetings, from electrical substations, from inside the Red Cross shelter and from anywhere else I got information that I thought needed to get out."

Some of Cox's posts are just bits of information such as "the hospital is open" and "I'm going to the airport to meet the governor" or "crews are coming from Georgia and Tennessee." He's also included information on what areas of town have power restored — key information for those who are staying out of town until the lights come back on.

On Wednesday, he had about 12 different posts with information. Cox quickly amassed more than 250 "friends." On Facebook, in order to see someone's site, you have to be accepted as a friend. Anyone who asked, Cox added to his friend list.

"Because of my position, the information is good and people know it's good. It's not like I'm Joe Blow blogger," Cox said.

Roughly 60 percent of Madisonville had power restored by Wednesday, and Cox was hoping that by Thursday, only 25 percent of the town would be without power.

Cox is also answering questions via Facebook.

"What's really amazing is the number of posts I've gotten," said Cox. "A lot of people from here have gone to other states. They are appreciating the updates."

Cox will continue to use his Facebook account to communicate with Madisonville residents long after the final house has power.

"I'd be crazy not to," he said.

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