Hurricanes are a big deal down here in the South where our coastline is subject to abuse on an annual basis during the second half of summer. I grew up near the Gulf of Mexico, and can remember several storms hitting my area during my lifetime, the most recent of which resulted in a week without electricity or public works.
My parents invested in a generator, which kept our food cold and some fans on through the day. It provided just enough power to keep their neighbor’s refrigerator going as well. It was a small thank you for allowing us to run the noisy generator through the night.
When disaster strikes, you may not always be able to rely on power or an active Internet connection to keep you informed. Local radio can convey information in words, but how do you get access to radar and other visual information about the storm?
In 2004, the state of Florida was hit with four hurricanes in about a month’s time. That’s pretty severe, and people on the ground there (as used to these types of storms as they may be) needed to know that more was to come.
Hurricane Katrina separated the city of New Orleans from the rest of the world. Information (and electricity) was unavailable for many of its residents. Only a few mobile towers remained operational, and any additional storm activity would have come as a surprise to many of its residents.
So how do you keep updated with real-time hurricane tracking? In the event that all power is lost, what are the available alternative resources of information?
In the event that you’re either preparing for the storm’s arrival or you happen to have access to electricity and Internet connectivity, there are several great sites out there to help keep you informed in real-time.
Weather.com has a hurricane tracker that gives you extremely detailed information and updated radar to keep you informed as things progress.
The National Weather Service also has a site featuring less aesthetically pleasing and yet equally informative real-time maps and radar. This is a useful resource if you’re dealing with Edge or 2G connections from a mobile device.
As long as the cell towers remain operational, you should have access to all the information you need in the palm of your hand. There are hundreds of great apps out there for storm tracking and general weather information, but a few of them stand out above the rest. Below are my recommended apps, but remember that you can always access the above websites through a mobile browser in a pinch.
- LEX 18 StormTracker (Android) (iOS) *FREE*
- Hurricane and Hurricane HD by Kitty Code (iPhone) (iPad) *$2.99/3.99*
- Hurricane Software (Android) *Free*
- The Weather Channel (Android) (iOS) *FREE*
Battery Powered Weather and Shortwave Radio
AM/FM stations may go off the air in the event of an emergency. A flood came through my home town while I was working at 92.3 KVLT and we did our best to stay on the air to keep the public informed about what was going on throughout the emergency. Unfortunately, our tower eventually fell victim to rising waters and we were forced off the air. This happens, so relying strictly on AM/FM radio stations to keep you informed can cause problems down the line.
Shortwave radio, however, can receive broadcasts from virtually anywhere in the world. A battery-powered shortwave radio may cost quite a bit more than an AM/FM alternative, but that investment can be well worth it if you find yourself without power and disconnected from the outside world. Hurricane Watch Net, one of the longest-running storm tracking resources can be heard on 14.325Mhz.
You can also buy an NOAA Weather Radio to access the public service band provided by NOAA. This service is provided in the U.S. only, so if you live outside of the U.S., you may want to check your local weather radio listings for information. NOAA broadcasts from over 1,000 transmitters scattered throughout the U.S. While not all of them will be up and working in the event of a severe storm, there is a good chance that one of them will reach you wherever you may be. These radios can be battery powered and can be purchased from local stores or even Amazon.