Here’s a list of essential Apps and websites that we 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 Irene veering towards the east coast of Florida and potentially making landfall this weekend in the Carolinas, you’ll want to be prepared.
NOAA National Hurricane Center
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 device. 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 data 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.
StormPulse is a great site if you’re planning a trip on a desktop or laptop computer, as the website is Flash-based, so it won’t run on an iOS device.
Like the National Hurricane Center, the website is free and you can sign up with a free account, which will allow you to look at projected storm tracks using different computer models but it has more advanced Premium features for those that are more storm and hurricane enthusiasts or even meteorological professionals, such as moving satellite imagery loops, “Super Radar” and customizable alerts.
iHurricaneHD by HurricaneSoftware.com
iHurricaneHD is a free App for iOS devices and is distributed as a universal binary for the iPad, iPod Touch and the iPhone.
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 of $1.99 removes all advertising from the program.
Hurricane/HD by KittyCode LLC
Hurricane and 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.
Hurricane Tracker for iPhone/iPad (iPhoneEZApps)
Our last iOS “App”, Hurricane Tracker for iOS is something of an odd-man-out, as it isn’t really a native “App” per se, even though it is sold on the App Store for $1.99. It’s actually a very clever “mashup” of various web data from the NHC and other sources that allows it to be presented in sort of a browser-wrapper on an iOS device.
That being said, any clever individual could easily make this run on their PC, Mac or their Android-based smartphone, once they know the basic URLS:
I was able to make all of these pages work on my Windows and Linux-based PC provided I was running Chrome (which is WebKit-based, like the iPad’s browser) and they they will work on the Mac’s Safari as well.
I was also able to make the smartphone versions of the pages work flawlessly on my Android 2.3-based phone, my Android tablet and I suspect they might even function on the Palm Pre/TouchPad or even the latest BlackBerry 6/7 and Windows Phone devices if they are WebKit/HTML5 compatible.
The main “Current Storms” page includes a daily updated hurricane YouTube video and audio forecast that appears to be narrated by the application’s author, who is a talented storm expert. The daily YouTube video update in the page uses HTML5 video embedding, and it works fine on both Chrome and Froyo’s web browser.
I haven’t seen a native Android version of this particular web mashup yet on the Android Market, but I’d gladly pay the app developer the $1.99 for his work if I could use it on my Droid without having to switch manually between bookmarks.