Weathering The Storm

Well, I guess this is ‘part 2′ of my mention of weather software. I’m still not sure what I’ve found are the best desktop severe weather packages around, but they’re better than anything else anyone has mentioned, so far.

You may remember that I wrote about the value of software being used to track storms and severe weather in general [Weather or Not; 3/3/05]. Now it’s time to mention the software I personally use – Storm Predator and Eye of the Storm.

Storm Predator is my main tool. It’s not cheap, but what price would you put on your personal safety? It costs $39.95 for the downloaded version and another $10 buys you the CD version with the expanded images and data. There is no charge for updates or new versions.

Storm Predator downloads weather radar images from the web and puts them in an easily understandable format. They show up on a round radar screen in the software. You might say “Sure, but I can get that much from The Weather Channel”. And you’d be right, but Storm Predator doesn’t stop there. It allows the user to tweak the image shown, applying all kinds of filters, like ignoring ground clutter or clear air turbulence. Then it applies some things you’ve probably only seen on your local TV station: arrows indicating storm intensity and directiom, colorizing the radar images, and things like that. Each of these things help it to do one thing: save you time when you or your family’s life is on the line. And since the Internet is a disaster-resistant tool, it can be working when your local TV is off the air.

Then it has some features that just make the softwareeasy to use. You can customize various colors in the display or change the whole program skin. Not critical, but call it convenience.

The radar is updated every 5 minutes. That’s because NOAA and storm tracking team there only update the images that often. I consider this the best general weather tracking software around. The only thing better is having your own Doppler radar.

Now, you might also say “Well, why have TWO weather packages?”. The answer would be “Storm Predator tracks things close to home, while Eye of the Storm tracks things a long way off.”.

That might seem a strange reason, but I assure you it’s true. Eye of the Storm, from StarStone Software is the best software around at doing one thing: tracking hurricanes and taiphoons. It tracks them from the tropical storm phase to the very end. It will download current storm data from the Internet and show you the storms on a 3D globe that you can move around with a mouse, while zooming in or out. It shows you storm histories as visible tracks and gives you predicted tracks for future reference.

Another comment might be “Why in the world do you need something like that when you live in Ohio?”. The answer is very easy – flooding. It’s an issue when you live where storms can get at you (we felt the effects of TWO hurricanes last year) and the land is fairly flat. So, yes, we do actually keep an eye on such things here. Eye of the Storm does the best job of making that task easy. Start the software and hit one button to update the current data, then watch as the maps and storm locations update in 3D. The people who live anywhere south and / or east of here already know how valuable such a tool can be. Another plus to the possible customer base is that the storm tracking abilities extend GLOBALLY. That’s right, you can track tropical storms anywhere in the world. Vacationers need to take heed of that! You can check whether a storm is headed for that resort you booked in Thailand or Australia (not to mention Mexico or the Carribean) with one easy click.

Last year’s version sold out, but this year’s will be out by May. It’s available now for pre-ordering at a price of $29.95 (plus $4.95 shipping if you want the CD version). There’s a trial version available for download on the web site.

I hope this info will be useful to you people who live in harm’s way (and you know who you are!).