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Hurricane Irma: Storm trackers and other survival tools for mobile and desktop users


Video: Apps to help with disaster preparation

Note: This was originally published in September 2010. As Hurricane Irma strengthened into a Category 5 storm, we updated the article to reflect current content.

http://www.zdnet.com/

I live in South Florida. And while I have no desire to live anywhere else, tropical storms, hurricanes and otherwise lousy weather are a seasonal fact of life here.

Not even 20 years ago, most people would not have been able to make informed decisions about preparing for tropical storms. But today we have portable GPS, our laptops, our smartphones, and my favorite tool as part of our storm-chaser arsenal — iPad.

While many of the same types of tools can still be used on a PC or Mac desktop or laptop, I discovered a newfound and real appreciation for iPad and the iOS for this type of application.

The iPad is a particularly good visualization tool for analyzing hurricane tracks because of the device’s multi-touch and human-oriented interface and how quickly you can get updated reports on the storm’s progress with the different apps out there.

Here’s my list of essential apps and websites that I recommend the next time a big storm starts heading your way, so you too can make more informed decisions about whether you stay in place or evacuate.

With Hurricane Irma bearing down on South Florida and potentially making landfall in the Carolinas and Georgia, you’ll want to be prepared.

NOAA National Hurricane Center (Web Site)

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Image:ZDNet

If you’re going to have ONE application or website that you use for relying on projected storm tracks, then the NOAA National Hurricane Center Website is the one you should have bookmarked on your PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone or other smartphone devices. It costs you absolutely nothing and if you really want to learn about hurricanes, this is definitely the place to go.

The National Hurricane Center is the central source of information that just about every other application listed in this article uses as a data source.

The NHC website contains a massive wealth of up-to-date information. You can track and monitor the progress of every single storm in the Eastern Pacific and the Atlantic, read various types of graphical computer models and watch animated satellite and radar maps.

Unfortunately, the NHC site looks like it was designed in the early 1990s — there’s no cool Web 2.0 point-and-click GUI, but all the data is there if you want it. They’ve got a PDA rendered version of the site which you could use on an iPhone or an Android device, but unless you’re the type that likes to page through raw data, it probably won’t be of much use to you.

However, the basic charts and storm projections should be enough to give you a very good idea of where the hurricane is heading and to give you up-to-date and reliable information on how its behavior might change.

While NOAA has a huge wealth of information you want to make sure your browser has pop-up blocking disabled, otherwise you will not be able to click on any of the links which spawn new tabs or new browser windows.

University of Wisconsin Space Science and Engineering Center (Web Sites)

I was recently turned on to the University of Wisconsin’s SSEC by Tech Broiler reader and professional storm chaser/photographer Jim Edds.

Jim uses a number of tools to do his job, but when he wants real time hurricane data, he heads to the SSEC.

http://www.zdnet.com/

The data above comes from the SSEC’s Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) TROPIC website, which you can access on any PC or tablet. Jim likes this site because frequently he is using only 3G service and he is able to access a large amount of data quickly without a large download payload.

Like NOAA, TROPIC has a huge wealth of information and you want to make sure your browser has pop-up blocking disabled, otherwise, you will not be able to click on any of the links which spawn new tabs or new browser windows.

http://www.zdnet.com/

Jim is also very impressed with the SSEC’s Geostationary Satellite Images site, which shows high-resolution animated satellite images from several different weather satellites in Flash or Javascript, depending on what type of device you are using.

Radarscope (iOS, Android $9.99)

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Image:ZDNet

Described by Jim as “The ultimate radar application for the iPad” Radarscope is an extremely sophisticated, real-time Doppler radar app for iOS that completely exploits the capabilities of Retina displays on 3rd-gen or newer iPads.

It features the ability to select from dozens of long-range doppler radar stations and get data in real-time and also gives you severe weather alerts which you can click on and focus on a particularly dangerous weather area.

iHurricaneHD by Gencode Systems/HurricaneSoftware.com

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Image:ZDNet

iHurricaneHD is a free advertising-supported hurricane tracker app for iOS and Android devices. The company also has a full desktop suite for Windows PCs.

iHurricaneHD allows you to track the progress of current and past storms and uses projection data from the National Hurricane Center.

Using the interface, you click on each projected location where it displays the hurricane’s estimated speed, heading and approximate distance from your location.

It also allows you to view various static satellite maps from the US Navy, GOES and METEOSAT, and provides a better interface to warning and alert information from the NHC than the NHC does with its own website.

The application also allows you to register your email address for hurricane alerts. An in-app purchase on Android and iOS of $2.99 removes all advertising from the program.

Hurricane HD by KittyCode LLC (iOS, $3.99)

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Image:ZDNet

Hurricane HD, distributed by KittyCode for $3.99 for the iPhone/iPod Touch and iPad respectively is probably the most sophisticated of the apps for iOS listed in this article. It has by far the most exploitative user interface on the iPhone and iPad and makes very good use of the multi-touch capabilities of iOS.

Like HurricaneSoftware.com’s iHurricaneHD, Hurricane/Hurricane HD makes use of data from the National Hurricane Center, but presents it in a very easy to navigate and visually pleasing way and allows you to seamlessly switch between satellite and map modes for storm tracking as well as moving radar and satellite imaging loops.

As with iHurricaneHD, this app allows you to track current as well as past storms, going back as far as even 1851 using available data. The software also provides video updates for storms that are currently in progress.

Stormpulse/Riskpulse (Basic storm tracking free, real time subscription website)

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Image:ZDNet

Stormpulse (and Riskpulse) is probably the most advanced of all of the tools mentioned here, but it’s likely overkill for the average end-user.

It’s really more of a professional-level suite intended for businesses to do risk assessments that have facilities in hurricane-prone areas, or for companies that are dependent on shipping and transportation.

The basic tracker is free with LinkedIn login credentials, and the visualizations are very cool.

What other good hurricane tracking and forecasting apps and websites do you like to use? Talk Back and Let Me Know.



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