The Best Apps For #Tornado Season


When someone says “winter weather,” most people think of snow.

But in some areas of the country, particularly the South, winter can be an active time for severe storms and tornadoes.  And as we see all the time — like the Alabama and Georgia tornadoes.  They don’t even hit during “tornado season”.
In fact, on Dec. 23-24, 2014, 10 tornadoes hit Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia, killing five people and injuring more than 50.
While the chance of tornadoes is significantly lower in the winter than the spring, it’s important to stay prepared for any contingency.
Smartphones and other portable devices have proven to be important tools during spring storm seasons, and they continue to do so all year long. There are plenty of apps available to help during storm season.
One of the most powerful and comprehensive is RadarScope, an app popular with meteorologists. RadarScope is available in a free version, which contains most of the apps features, and a Pro version, which costs $10 per year and provides added forecasting tools.
RadarScope provides a long list of radars, from the standard precipitation to wind velocity radar that can show damaging winds and even rotation that could indicate tornadoes. It includes the new dual polarization radars, new tools that can show possible tornadoes more accurately. With these tools, forecasters can see possible debris balls that could indicate a tornado is on the ground and causing damage.
While RadarScope has powerful tools for forecasters, it’s easy to navigate and can be used by anyone. It also includes weather alerts that will sound if a watch or warning is issued in a chosen area.
WeatherUnderground has another app that can help in a stormy situation. Called Storm, the app is similar to RadarScope, though it lacks some of the radars, such as the dual polarization tools. The Storm app is free, but includes ads. An ad-free subscription is available for $1.99 per year.
This app can show everything from a storm’s track to the lightning it’s producing. It not only has a current radar, it has a future one that can predict where a storm is headed and how intense it will be once it gets there. Storm also can send alerts for favorite locations to the smartphone or tablet whenever a watch or warning is issued for that area.
For those just needing a quick glance at the current conditions, the Wunderground app from Weather Underground can provide that. Some of the information provided includes current temperature, radar, barometric pressure and wind speed, as well as humidity, rain accumulation, visibility and even sunrise and sunset times. The app also provides a forecast and temperature graph for the next five days. Again, the app is free, but an ad-free version costs $1.99 per year.
Finally, check out the area’s local TV station apps, if available. Most television stations have their own news apps, and many have their own weather apps. Some are better than others, but the local apps often can provide everything from timely weather alerts to the ability to stream their live broadcast to see first-hand what’s happening with the weather.
While winter is a slower storm season that other times of the year, it’s by no means absent of severe weather. It’s important to stay vigilant when severe weather is expected. Smartphone apps provide the best weather tools available while on the go. They can help ensure safety during storm season — any time of year.


Melissa L. Jones is a trained storm spotter, photographer and technology review columnist. Her column, “Tech Spotlight,” appears every Monday in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper.

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All They Needed On CSI Miami Was An Evacuation Checklist…

Have you seen the episode of CSI: Miami called “Blown Away”.   Well if you haven’t, see if you can catch it on demand or on Netflix, because it was one of the best episodes they’ve ever done.    We put a teaser for it above, to whet your appetite.
Jerry Bruckheimer and the gang should be proud!  The basic plot?  Ryan and Walter (deftly played by Jonathan Togo and Omar Miller) were called to a mobile home community to investigate a dead body.  Just as they were nearing the home, the skies darkened and a funnel cloud appeared.   In a race for time, the boys tried as hard as they could to reach the scene before the funnel cloud, became a full-fledged tornado. 
Fighting gale force winds they stumbled into the home, and trying valiantly to preserve the crime scene – which by this time was only the few inches of carpet surrounding the young woman’s body.  Walter began cutting the carpet around the body.  Ryan tried to loosen it and roll the girl up for safekeeping, but before they could lift her and run for safety, the tornado struck.
Seconds later they were fighting for their own lives, as Ryan grabbed on to the only thing Walter could find to help keep him from blowing out of the wind ravaged doors – a string of Christmas tree lights.  Walter had to let go of the lights when they began cutting his hands raw.  Ryan flew out the door, only to be discovered about ten minutes later, lying in a heap outside.  Eventually Horatio and the rest of the team were on scene and discovered the girl’s body in a tree.
Yes, everyone was all right, despite having risked their lives to maintain the integrity of the crime scene.  It was a great start to a fascinating episode.  
But then right in the middle of the action, writer Brian Davidson slipped in a critical lesson in evacuation planning.
As we find out later, after the girl’s parents saw the tornado watch and then warning, they spent about half an hour getting ready to evacuate.  A flashback showed them grabbing family photos, their vital documents, asking each other if they had everything they would need.
But the one thing they didn’t do, is the one thing that cost their daughter her life.  You see, their daughter was away at college.  What they didn’t know, is that she had an argument with her boyfriend and decided to spend the night in her own room at home.  She probably slipped in after they went to bed.
The parents grabbed what they needed to start over again, in case their home was destroyed – which it was.  They asked each other if they had everything – which they thought they did.
What they didn’t have was an Evacuation Plan or even an Evacuation Checklist  like the one we have in our newest book/program The Backup Plan 3.0.  We also have one here on the blog.   If they had, they would have known that they needed to double check every room in their house before leaving.   As it was, they must not have grabbed any of their daughter’s keepsakes or anything that might have been important to her.  Granted she was away at school and has most things with her, but like most college-aged people, she probably had quite a few things that she would have wanted to grab for safekeeping.
All it would have taken was creating an Evacuation Plan or Checklist with their daughter, and they would have known what she wanted them to grab and take with if a tornado or hurricane were to strike.  And if they had gone into her room to get those items, they would have seen her.  That Evacuation Plan would have saved their daughter’s life.
So the next time you update your Evacuation Plan or check over your Evacuation Checklist, make sure that you include a line that says “Check Each Room Before Leaving House”.  You never know what or who might have been left behind.
Have Fun Getting Your Stuff Together! We’ll talk later…


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