Extreme storms like Hurricane Sandy have always been news-worthy, but until recently, they were localized, the focus of regional news outlets and weather junkies. That is no longer the case, thanks in large part to social media.

Hurricane Sandy, dubbed the Frankenstorm, has become a national, if not global, weather-watching event as images, video and memes hurtle through the blogosphere. Everyone is talking about it—people and brands alike (my favorite boutique just posted a “thoughts are with you” message on Facebook). In fact, I received no fewer than five Facebook posts from family across the country asking if we were affected here in the Boston area (answer: yes, but minimally).

So why the widespread interest? Simple: weather is content and people have a voracious appetite. A Twitter blog post on Monday listed all of the various means with which you could get your news fix should your power go out (e.g., SMS) along with the Twitter accounts and hashtags for the states most affected.

The Weather Company (formerly Channel) which is the go-to, cross-platform source for all things weather, saw record bending stats online and via mobile as people gobbled up real-time updates and watched live feeds of the massive weather event via YouTube. In an interview for Digiday, Eric Hadley, the SVP of Partner Solutions/Trade Marketing for TWC, dubbed the storm, “our Super Bowl.” And it’s likely they’re cashing in on the advertising potential from those millions of eyeballs.

Duracell FB page

During crises like Hurricane Sandy, brands also have the ability to create defining moments as well as big $$ opportunities. Take Duracell. They’ve been talking about the storm since last Thursday, providing preparedness tips and weather updates (via ads and social) while readying their Rapid Responder trucks to assist those who need batteries.

The Home Depot announced extended store hours this weekend in New England via social and have been actively monitoring activity through a Hurricane Command Center.

So, what do you get when you mix a devastating news event with our unquenchable desire to consume and share content? The perfect social storm.