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Preparing for Hurricane Florence: Storm trackers and other survival tools

Your tablet and smartphone can be invaluable tools to help you stay out of harm's way during hurricane season.

Video: Apps to help with disaster preparation

Note: This was originally published in September 2010. As Hurricane Florence strengthened into a life-threatening storm, we updated the article to current content.

I live in . And while I have no desire to live anywhere else, tropical storms, and otherwise lousy weather are a seasonal fact of life .

Not even 20 years ago, most people would not have been able to make informed decisions about preparing for tropical storms. But today we have portable , our , our , and my favorite tool as part of our storm-chaser -- iPad.

While many of the same types of tools can still used on a PC or Mac or , I discovered a newfound and real appreciation for iPad and the iOS for this type of application.

The iPad is a particularly good visualization tool for analyzing because of the device's multi-touch and human-oriented interface and how quickly you can get updated reports on the storm's progress with the different apps out there.

Here's my list of apps and websites that I recommend the next time a big storm starts heading , so you too can make more informed decisions about whether you stay in place or evacuate.

With hurricanes bearing down, you'll want to be prepared.

NOAA National Hurricane (Web Site)

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Image:ZDNet

If you're going to have application or website that you use for relying on projected storm tracks, then the NOAA National Hurricane Center Website is the one you should have bookmarked on your PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone or other smartphone devices. It costs you absolutely nothing and if you really want to about hurricanes, this is definitely the place .

The National Hurricane Center is the central source of information that just about every other application listed in this article uses as a data source.

The website contains a wealth of up-to-date information. You can track and monitor the progress of every single storm in the Eastern and the , read various types of graphical computer models, and watch animated satellite and radar .

Unfortunately, the NHC site looks like it was in the early 1990s -- there's no cool Web 2.0 point-and-click GUI, but all the data is there if you want it. They've got a PDA rendered version of the site which you could use on an iPhone or an Android device, but unless you're the type that likes to page through raw data, it probably won't be of much use to you.

However, the basic charts and storm projections should be enough to give you a very good of where the hurricane is heading and to give you up-to-date and reliable information on how its behavior might change.

While NOAA has a huge wealth of information you want to make sure your browser has up disabled, otherwise you will not be able to click on any of the links which new tabs or new browser windows.

University of Space Science and Engineering Center (Web Sites)

I was recently turned on to the University of Wisconsin's SSEC by Tech Broiler reader and storm chaser/photographer Jim Edds.

Jim uses a number of tools to do his job, but when he wants real-time hurricane data, he heads to the SSEC.

The data above comes from the SSEC's Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) TROPIC website, which you can access on any PC or . Jim likes this site because frequently he is using only 3G service and he is able to access a large amount of data quickly without a large download payload.

Like NOAA, TROPIC has a huge wealth of information and you want to make sure your browser has pop-up blocking disabled, otherwise, you will not be able to click on any of the links which spawn new tabs or new browser windows.

Jim is also very impressed with the SSEC's Geostationary Satellite Images site, which shows high-resolution animated satellite images from several different weather satellites in or Javascript, depending on what type of device you are using.

Radarscope (iOS, Android $9.99)

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Image:ZDNet

Described by Jim as "The ultimate radar application for the iPad" Radarscope is an extremely sophisticated, real-time Doppler radar app for iOS that completely exploits the capabilities of Retina displays on current-generation iPads and iPhones.

It features the ability to select from dozens of long-range doppler radar stations and get data in real-time and also gives you severe weather alerts which you can click on and focus on a particularly dangerous weather area.

Radarscope doesn't do hurricane tracking but what it does do, it does extremely well. If you live in an area where storms are common, there really isn't another app out there that provides as sophisticated Doppler data that this program has.

MyRadar NOAA Weather Radar by Aviation Data Systems

While not as a sophisticated radar product by default as RadarScope, MyRadar is an extremely good all-in-one weather app because it has the ability to composite multiple Doppler radars at once, showing a complete picture of weather patterns for an entire region.

The basic version of the app is advertising supported, but there are in-app upgrades that allow you to open more features, such as a hurricane tracker ($2.99), professional radar ($6.99) and Apple Watch functionality ($.99). Ads can be disabled for an additional fee of $1.99.

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Image: ZDNet

NOAA Weather Pro by Apalon Apps

Similar in function to MyRadar, NOAA Weather Pro ($4.99) uses the product data feeds from NOAA to produce composite weather visualizations you can view on your mobile device.

While not as sophisticated as MyRadar with all of the add-ons, I happen to really like it because of the clean and simple user interface. Hurricane tracking is built in, without needing to add other subscription products, which is a nice plus.

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Image:ZDNet

Stormpulse/Riskpulse (Basic storm tracking free, real-time subscription website)

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Image:ZDNet

Stormpulse (and Riskpulse) is probably the most advanced of all of the tools mentioned here, but it's likely overkill for the average end-user.

It's really more of a professional-level suite intended for businesses to do assessments that have facilities in hurricane-prone areas, or for companies that are dependent on shipping and transportation.

The basic tracker is free with login credentials, and the visualizations are very cool.

What other good hurricane tracking and forecasting apps and websites do you like to use? Talk Back and Let Me Know.