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News, federal sites flooded during attacks

People turned to the Web last week for the latest developments on the terrorist attacks, making many sites extremely slow or inaccessible.

The most visited Web destinations during the week of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks were news and government sites, as people turned to the Internet for the latest developments.

After hijacked airplanes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon last Tuesday, major news Web sites were flooded with Internet traffic, leaving many extremely slow or inaccessible.

Keynote Performance, which measures Internet traffic, said ABCNews.com, CNN.com and The New York Times on the Web were inaccessible between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. PDT on the day of the attacks as people attempted to view the sites.

When ABCNews.com became available at 8 a.m. PDT, it took 37.14 seconds for the Web site to appear with only 5.1 percent availability. At 7 a.m. PDT, CNN.com's site took 27.16 seconds to appear with only 3.4 percent of the attempts being successful. Also at 7 a.m. PDT, The New York Times site had a performance rate of 9.02 seconds with 43 percent availability.

Other major news sites were also slow during the same time period. MSNBC.com took 28.25 seconds to appear with 23.7 percent availability, and USAToday.com had a performance rate of 43.79 seconds with 27.1 percent availability.

By Thursday afternoon, Keynote reported, the major news sites had returned to normal, although The New York Times site continued to experience slow performance. The site, on average, took 100 seconds to appear with 77.02 percent availability between 5 p.m. PDT Tuesday and 3 p.m. PDT Wednesday. On Thursday, availability improved to 99.15 percent at 12 p.m. PDT with a performance rate of 52.65 seconds.

Government sites also experienced slow performance, according to Keynote. Thursday, CIA.gov averaged as high as 53.87 seconds from 11 a.m. PDT to 1 p.m. PDT. Keynote said the CIA site performance rate is normally around 1.5 seconds.

FAA.gov, the Federal Aviation Administration's site, hit its peak on Thursday at 9 a.m. PDT with a performance rate of 42.12 seconds, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency's site, FEMA.gov, had a maximum average time of 24.78 seconds from 11 a.m. PDT to 1 p.m. PDT on Thursday.

Keynote said performance on the FBI.gov site averaged less than 1 second until 6 a.m. PDT Tuesday. It spiked up to 176.91 seconds following the attacks, staying greater than 50 seconds until 8:30 a.m. PDT. By Wednesday, Keynote said, the site's performance returned to its normal 1 second to 2 seconds performance rate.

Keynote said American Airlines' site was unavailable between 5 a.m. PDT and 2 p.m. PDT on the day of the attacks. Wednesday, the site appeared to have normal availability, but at 11 a.m. PDT it took 11.22 seconds for it to appear. Keynote did not have figures for United Airlines, whose planes, along with American's, were also involved in the hijackings.

While news, government and airline sites were flooded with traffic, Web surfers turned to search engines to find relevant information on the crisis.

The most popular search words at Lycos from late Tuesday through midday Wednesday included "World Trade Center," "Nostradamus," "New York," "Osama bin Laden," "Terrorism," "Pentagon," "Afghanistan," "Camp David," "FBI," "Palestinians" and "Taliban."

Popular search terms at Google for the week ending Thursday were similar. They included "Nostradamus," "CNN," "World Trade Center," "Osama bin Laden," "Pentagon," "FBI," "American Red Cross," "American Airlines," "Afghanistan" and "American flag."

Yahoo said the dominant search terms on Wednesday were the URLs of the news outlets as well as the words "WTC," "Midway Airlines," "Terrorist attacks," "Kashmir," "NATO," "United Arab Emirates," "Nostradamus Twin Brothers," "Condoleezza Rice," "Fatah," and "American Flags."