Life in Arkansas has always meant living with tornadoes. Fortunately in her town, they’ve experienced fewer tornadoes than their Oklahoma neighbors because of the protection of the Ozarks. However in April of 2011, something shifted and spin-up tornadoes began battering her neighborhood. It’s a good thing she was able to take her brand new tornado assistant with her into the shelter of her bathtub, to help her keep an eye on the storm and to provide constant communication with her mom – a few neighborhoods away holed up in her own bathtub. Melissa’s assistant? Her iPad.
As a weather spotter for her local CBS affiliate, KFSM, Melissa usually takes pictures of the weather, especially lightning, but one night in April was so bad she left her camera in the case for protection. Armed with her computer, iPad and iPhone, Melissa headed into her bathroom for safety. As the tornado neared, she was streaming the live news broadcast on her computer and the live Doppler radar on her iPad, while texting three meteorologists and her mom. She snuck a peek out the window and spotted a lowering wall cloud, then the rotation down on the bottom. Her two cats were in the bathroom with her and wanted nothing of being barricaded until they started feeling the house shake and dove into the tub with her. “It felt like the house had two hands around it shaking it,” said Melissa recalling that night. “it shuddered and shuddered and then it stopped.”
The iPad gave Melissa something she and her family never had before – up to the second streaming radar and news updates. With the iPad she was able to see, via live radar that the danger had passed and the storms had dissipated. Without live streaming local weather broadcasts, families never knew when a storm was over and ended up staying in bathrooms or basements for hours just to be sure. Now she knows immediately when the storm has passed.
Another difference is the ability to communicate several different ways. “A woman in Joplin who was buried by the tornado in her basement had her cell phone with her and was able to dial out and tell people to come get her. She lived because of her cell phone,” said Melissa. “If my house fell down and I was trapped, I would be able to call out with my iPad or iPhone and tell people that I needed help and to come get me.” What makes the newer versions of the iPad different than many tablets, is that it can connect to the internet both with Wi-Fi and via a 3G or 4G cellular connection. So if the cellphone lines are down, you can still connect via Wi-Fi or vice versa.
The best part about the iPad is that it’s smaller than a computer and lighter, but has a bigger screen than an iPhone, helping Melissa follow the progress of the storm. But the thing that made the real difference were Melissa’s iPad apps, some of which are the same apps that her friend, meteorologist Garrett Lewis uses at KFSM, for his own storm reports.
She uses a new radar app called RadarScope along with her KFSM weather app and the app from the Weather Channel. The RadarScope is about $10 but for people in areas with a lot of bad storms, it’s invaluable.
Even though Melissa takes her computer and iPad into the bathroom with her for safekeeping during storms, she can’t just rely on that to keep her documents and photos safe. That why she’s started using Apple’s Mobile Me on the iCloud to store her computer documents. If she ever loses a document – or needs to restore a damaged computer, all she has to do is go to her Time Capsule, choose a day before the damage was done and Time Capsule will restore her documents back to her computer or iPad just as they were, before the damage happened.
The Time Capsule isn’t just for iPads and Macs. iPhone users can also use it to back up the information on their phones including contacts, voice mail and texts, ensuring that a mistakenly deleted message isn’t gone forever.
And those are just a few of the apps Melissa and other iPad users can’t get enough of. Another friend from Apple pays all of her bills on the iPad, which makes keeping up with finances effortless, especially during an emergency or an evacuation. Another app helps her track her medical care at a local hospital, giving her test results, letting her make appointments and makes her medical history available to her and her doctor if she needs treatment outside of her area.
Another helpful app is Find My iPhone (or iPad). Just install it on your device and if your phone is lost or stolen it will track it with GPS, play a sound so someone will find it, send a voicemail to the phone telling whoever finds it to call you or if stolen, will remotely wipe your data from the phone for safekeeping.
And those are just a few of the 100,000 apps available for the iPad alone – there are more than 400,000 for the iPhone and iPod/Touch.
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