A customer pumps gas at a Costco gas station, in North Miami, as Hurricane Irma makes it way toward  Florida.

Image: AP/REX/Shutterstock

Two of the most popular apps in the country right now owe their current popularity to an unlikely cause: hurricanes. 

The extreme situation faced by people affected by Hurricane Harvey and, now, Irma is causing some lesser-known apps to rise to the top of the App Store. 

On Thursday Florida Gov. Rick Scott urged people looking for gas, stations around the state have been running out of fuel, to download the app “Go Buddy.” The app he was actually referring to was “GasBuddy,” an app that helps people track gas station locations and prices. It had earlier rolled out an update that allowed users to see which Florida gas stations still had fuel.

Even though he misspoke the name, Scott’s plug was apparently effective because within hours, the app, which had already been on the rise following Hurricane Harvey, was shooting up the App Store. Within hours, it had risen from #26 to #2, according to app analytics from Sensor Tower.

GasBuddy's app shot up the ranking in the hours after Florida's governor plugged it in a press conference.

GasBuddy’s app shot up the ranking in the hours after Florida’s governor plugged it in a press conference.

“We estimate that GasBuddy has been downloaded approximately half a million times in the U.S. across the App Store and Google Play since hurricane Harvey made landfall on August 25,” says Sensor Tower CEO Oliver Yeh. “That is an increase of about 420% over the preceding 14 day period.”

GasBuddy isn’t the only app to gain notoriety in the wake of Harvey and, now, Hurricane Irma. Zello, a walkie-talkie app, has been sitting in the top spot in the U.S App Store, after it took a central role in rescue efforts in Texas.

As we’ve previously reported, the app has been a key resource for the Cajun Navy and other rescue groups. With phone lines jammed and cell service not reliable in the days immediately following Harvey, these groups used Zello to organize their rescue efforts.

Zello's App Store rankings have skyrocketed since Harvey hit Texas.

Zello’s App Store rankings have skyrocketed since Harvey hit Texas.

Even for those not on the ground in Texas, the app proved to be an important resource as remote volunteers could use the app to pitch in as dispatchers and help organize the seemingly never-ending flow of chatter. 

Now, with Irma headed for South Florida, residents there are appearing to take note. The app passed YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram to take the number one spot, where it’s been sitting for two days. If previous trends are any example, it’s run at the top likely isn’t over yet.

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