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It’s once again Severe Storm Season, and this year I’ve made several changes that will directly or indirectly require me to adjust the weather apps, software, and services I use to stay alive, safe, and at all times chasing storms (rather than being chased). Here’s the apps and sites I use the most.
While this is by no means exhaustive, these are all programs I’ve personally used and will use again during severe weather operations. Because I’ve made the switch to Windows Phone, those with Android devices may with to take a look at my Weather Apps 2012 post, which includes several great recommendations for that platform.
GRLevel3 version 2.11 grlevelx.com
GRLevel3 is a powerful Windows desktop app for Level III radar data from the National Weather Service. Many television stations use this product to display radar data to their served area (although you wouldn’t know it after it’s deeply customized). In addition to even greater customizations, the newest version includes GIS integrations – high resolution satellite imagery with detail that scales to your zoom level (you can even see your rooftop).
MRLevel3 Windows Phone Store
From the maker of GRLevel3, this Windows Mobile version is a powerful mobile app for the same detailed Level III radar data. Because Windows Phone has the full Windows operating system (not just a mobile system called Windows), as well as DirectX graphics support like a PC, it can power great apps like this. I ♥ Windows Phone!
RAD Now! Windows Phone Store
As advertised, this Windows Phone app allows you to quickly access real-time US weather radar imagery without any fuss, cost or advertisements. While it lacks some of the sophistication and customizability of paid Android apps like RadarScope, this app serves most use cases just fine.
Weather Radar Tile Windows Phone Store
With functionality complimentary to Rad Now! above, this app provides quick access to NWS radar products, including velocity products. You can pin any or multiple radar tiles to your Start screen for an always-up-to-date view of the weather.
AllisonHouse is an aggregation and integration service specializing in weather data. For a small monthly fee, AllisonHouse provides faster and more reliable data access to radar scans than the public NWS systems, while expanding available data feeds to include almost any NOAA Storm Prediction Center product. These feeds integrate into software (incluging GRLevel3) for seamless data displays of rich information. I use these to include mesoscale discussions, frontal positions, even mesonet and lightning strike information into my radar display of GRLevel3.
WP8 Radio Windows Phone Store
Allows you to listen to online streaming audio, including NOAA Weather Radios sites, amateur radio, police scanners and more from around the world. Although Weather Underground maintains a directory of weather radio broadcast repeaters, this app makes finding and listening to the audio a breeze.
Tracks live position, contact information, and storm reports of chasers and weather spotters. Integrates seamlessly into both GRLevel3 for live position reporting and viewing.
Garmin USB GPS Receiver
Roof-mounted GPS receiver for better coverage and reception during storms. Integrates with GRLevel3 to plot current position on top of live radar data, allowing for critical position decisions to be made when seconds matter. I also use GPSGate software to share this COM device with several applications simultaneously, such as the SpotterNetwork update client.
Similar to the column layout of TweetDeck, this Windows Phone Twitter client allows you to save a search and maintain live updates by keyword or hashtag. I keep a tab open of #okwx to monitor all Oklahoma Weather reports, for example.
National Weather Service
Of course it should go without saying that I make heavy use of NOAA’s products from the National Weather Service and the Storm Prediction center. Their sites are vast, but you should bookmark at least spc.noaa.gov and weather.gov. There are also handy shortcuts, including weather.gov/norman for the Norman Forecast Office (OUN) webpage. On your phone, check out mobile.weather.gov for small-screen-friendly view of the hazardous weather outlook and other products.
While online services are useful and convenient, they are by their very nature prone to failure during emergencies. While listening to weather radio from your PC is convenient, Power outages, data failure, or network congestion can all cut off your critical information in life-or-death situations. Keep a weather radio with fresh batteries available at all times. And most importantly, keep the weather radio on, especially when you go to sleep! Warning sirens outdoors may sound loud enough to wake you during the Saturday tests, but during heavy storms their alerts are drowned out by rain, thunder, and atmosphere.
Have more? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.