On August 27, 2005, everyone here in New Orleans and many other locations on the Gulf Coast was preparing for a hurricane to hit on August 29, uncertain how big a deal it might be. Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, quite a bit deal. Seven years later, we are once again preparing for the possibility that a hurricane will hit land close to here on August 29th. Hurricane Isaac is a smaller storm, but the date similarity alone is somewhat troubling. Within the next 24 hours everyone will be deciding whether to ride out the storm at home or evacuate to safer locations. Already, the local schools are closed until Thursday. And while it will change throughout the day today, the current National Hurricane Center forecast map has the hurricane traveling across my front porch:
Suffice it to say that the weather is on my mind right now.
So this is a good day to discuss weather apps for the iPhone or iPad. I've paid for dozens of them, and while not all are gems, that are quite a few that I think are worth putting on your iPhone or iPad, whether you are trying to track the next hurricane or if you are just trying to decide whether to take an umbrella with you to lunch. Here are my favorites:
- The Weather Channel (free) — This app has all of the basic features that you want in a weather app. Current weather, hourly for the next 24 hours, 36 hour detailed forecast and 10 day forecast, plus decent maps and videos. You can also pay $3.99 for the "Max" version of the app which lacks ads and has some other features like push notifications, but I like and recommend the free version. Click here:
- The Weather Channel for iPad (free) — This app has all of the useful features of the iPhone app but takes advantage of the larger iPad screen to present you more information at once and let you see radar maps on a larger screen. Click here:
- Hurricane HD ($3.99) — This is my favorite iPad app for tracking hurricanes. It shows you the complete track and details for every current hurricanes and typhoons, plus you can go back in time and see the tracks and details for prior hurricanes back to 1851. And you can overlay multiple hurricane tracks at one time. For example, you can easily compare the current Hurricane Isaac track with Katrina (2005), Camile (1969) and Betsy (1965) — the major hurricanes in recent memory to hit near New Orleans. Click here:
- Dark Sky ($3.99) — This app does only one thing, but it does it very well. It tells you whether it is going to rain over the next hour. By limiting its forecasts to the next hour, it is usually amazingly accurate. If I'm trying to decide whether to take an umbrella with me to lunch and the app predicts that it is going to rain outside of my office at 12:52, I know that I better be back in the building at 12:51 or I'm going to get wet. The app works on the iPhone, which is great because your iPhone is always with you, and is also useful on the iPad because of the large screen that shows you on the map exactly where the rain move during every minute of the next hour. Click here:
- Weather+ ($0.99) — This app is packed with lots of information including the current weather, forecast for the next few days and next 24 hours, and lots of other details, But the real reason to get this app is that this information is presented over a beautiful looping video appropriate to the current weather conditions with the time presented in large, easy-to-read numbers. Thus, you can turn on this app, set up your iPhone or iPad on your desk, and easily glance at the time and temperature atop a beautiful, moving background. Click here:
- Intellicast HD (free) — This app is packed with factual information, includes a large radar map, and even has a "skytime" mode that is similar to Weather+ although not as pretty. When I find myself obsessing about the weather and I'm tired of looking at The Weather Channel app, I'll switch to this one for an alternate view. Click here:
- Weather 2x ($0.99) — The concept here is similar to Weather+: present basic information on a beautiful background that corresponds to the current weather. This app uses a picture instead of the looping video of Weather+ and presents less information, but sometimes less is more. You get a beautiful picture on your iPhone or iPad with the time and weather, along with the ability to swipe left to see an hourly forecast or swipe right to select other cities. Click here:
- WeatherBug (free) — WeatherBug gets data from a vast network of stations located at schools and elsewhere, letting you see the current conditions at the high school down the block versus the community center around the corner. Many stations have live weather cams. There are three versions of this app. First, there is a free version for the iPhone that contains ads. Click here for the free iPhone version: Second, there is an ad-free version called WeatherBug Elite for $1.99. That is the version that I use on my iPhone, and it works great. Click here for WeatherBug Elite for iPhone: Third, there is a free version for the iPad that has ads, but you can pay $4.99 as an in-app purchase to disable those ads. Click here for iPad version:
- Weather Underground (free) — The Weather Underground was the first weather site on the Internet and has long been a favorite of hard-core weather fans. Last month, Weather Underground was purchased by its long-time competitor The Weather Channel, leading some to wonder what would happen to the website and the iPhone app. So far, however, Weather Underground continues to be a great source of weather information with a great map feature. The app is free, but you can pay $1.99 a year to disable ads. Click here:
- Camera and Photos (built-in) — If a hurricane, tornado, or other weather event causes damage to your home and the property contained within, you are going to have to file an insurance claim. It will be much easier to do so if you have current pictures of all of your valuable items. Before a big storm comes, take 10 minutes with a camera, such as the built-in one on the iPhone, to take pictures throughout your house of everything that you would want to replace. If you use another camera, make sure that you transfer the final pictures to the Photos picture gallery on your iPhone or iPad. That way, even if you evacuate for a storm, you have current pictures with you on your device in case you need them.
These are the weather-related apps that are currently in regular use on my iPhone and iPad, but I frequently find new favorites and I'm sure that there are a ton more out there that I don't even know about yet. If there is another app that you use and recommend, please post a comment to this post to share with the rest of us.