Best Apps to Help Prepare for Winter Storms
By Tracey Dowdy
This winter has been unusually mild (anyone else have to kick on the AC in on Christmas Eve?) but we all know the harsh weather is on its way. As someone who grew up on Canada’s east coast and spent years living outside Buffalo, NY, I’ve seen my share of winter storms. I keep a storm kit in the back of my SUV with items like granola bars, water, hand warmers, an ice scraper, kitty litter, phone charger and blankets, as well as other emergency items, and more than once it’s come in handy.
But in addition to emergency supplies, it’s important to have up-to-date information about the weather. My goal is to never have to tap into that stash of granola bars or use that kitty litter to help me get un-stuck. These apps can alert you when that nasty weather hits and ensure you and your loved ones stay safe.
Storm Shield uses location-based technology so your weather alerts follow you even when you travel. The app provides severe weather forecasts, live video feeds, as well as up-to-the-minute radar and weather maps. You can choose to receive a text message or even a phone call any time the National Weather Service issues a severe weather warning, which is particularly valuable for elderly or non-tech savvy family members. ($2.99 – iOS, Android)
Intellicast Weather from The Weather Company (Weather Channel, weather.com, Weather Underground), provides real-time storm tracking and easy-to-read radar maps so you can see not only where the storm is but where it’s headed next. You receive alerts even when you’re not using the app and you can access the Road Weather Index to gauge road conditions before venturing out. (Free – Android)
Dark Sky has the most beautiful weather animations. It’s easy-to-read interface lets you know at a glance whether it will rain or snow up to an hour in advance, and you can customize your severe weather alerts for the next 24 hours so you’ll always be up to date with the weather data that’s relevant to you. ($3.99 – iOS, Android)
Weather Underground gathers data from over 100,000 weather stations around the country, making much of the reporting exceptionally localized. Pairing this information with historical weather records, the app provides incredibly accurate 10 day weather forecasts. Content is user supported and curated, so reports are constantly monitored and updated, again making it very precise. (Free – iOS, Android, Windows)
FLASH Weather Alerts promises more accurate weather alerts than other similar apps. Users receive alerts based on a more specific geographic location – instead of getting an alert for severe weather in your county, it would be for a much narrower region. You can customize alerts for home or travel and add locations to monitor weather conditions in areas where friends and family live. Two notable features are the option to add an audio flash for alerts, very convenient when driving or in the middle of the night, and the option to turn off background tracking to conserve battery life. In this mode, FLASH Weather will only use GPS when the app is open. ($4.99 – iOS, Android)
I would also recommend downloading other non-weather related apps like Waze for up-to-date traffic information; Hotel Tonight if you have to get off the road or your flight is cancelled; Red Cross in case you find yourself in medical emergency during a storm; or even SAS Survival Guide with over 400 pages of survival tips and how to guides for times when Old Man Winter isn’t quite so genial as he has been so far.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.